The impact of the government’s proposed changes to ECO is just becoming clear – and it’s not a pretty sight
So now we know. It was always clear, from the moment that David Cameron pledged in prime minister’s question time to “roll back the green taxes” on energy bills, that this political gesture would have an impact on jobs in the broader construction industry - in particular for those involved in domestic retrofit work. But a look at the fine print behind last week’s consultation on the proposed changes to the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) shows us just what that cost is estimated to be: 14,000 jobs; a £900m reduction in workload; and a halving of the number of installations of cavity wall insulation in hard-to-treat homes.
As we said at the time Cameron made his announcement, this is an example of populist policy-making at its worst. He cut the “green taxes” on energy bills because, though fairly small, they were the quickest and most politically painless way he could respond to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s taunting over those bills. This ignored the fact that the measures paid for by ECO actually reduce energy bills for those least able to pay them.
The industry now has to dust itself off and prepare for the likely new reality contained in the consultation
There is no point crying over spilt milk. The industry now has to dust itself off and prepare for the likely new reality contained in the consultation. And there is good news too: more measures will be allowed, such as installations in easy to treat homes, and the longer time period for ECO may smooth out the boom-bust effects of this time-limited programme.
But it is a depressing example of what can happen when an issue becomes a political hot potato, and we should hope for better from whoever forms the next government.
Joey Gardiner, assistant editor