The Government's new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, announced this week, discriminates against an estimated 850,000 homes in rural England and Wales. That's because these householders will be unable to take advantage of the scheme to upgrade their boiler as it only applies to gas-fired types.
On Thursday the Department of Energy and Climate Change revealed that, from June, people in England and Wales will be able to get up to £7,600 back through the new Green Deal fund.
Under the scheme, domestic energy customers can secure up to £1,000 for installing two measures from an approved list, up to £6,000 for installing solid wall insulation and up to £100 refunded for their Green Deal Assessment.
The scheme also entitles those who bought a property in the year before applying to qualify for up to an additional £500 if they carry out energy-efficiency improvements.
The Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, said: "The best way for households to take control of their energy bills is to use less energy. Faulty boilers, draughty windows and insufficient insulation all cause properties to leak hundreds of pounds every year."
But Jeremy Hawksley, director general of Oftec, the oil-fired heating trade body, warned: "The vast majority of people in rural Britain live in homes with old, inefficient boilers and so will not be able to upgrade to modern high-efficiency models under the new arrangement. This is clearly discriminatory and unfair."
Oftec reckons that rural households are much more likely to be in fuel poverty. A recent Consumer Focus report said that an estimated 29 per cent of rural homes in England and 47 per cent in Wales are being forced to spend more than 10 per cent of their household income on keeping their home warm.
Last month the Government launched its domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, aimed at encouraging rural households to adopt new heating technologies to reduce fuel bills and carbon emissions.
But the high upfront cost, which according to Oftec is between £8,000 and £19,000, makes the scheme fit for only the wealthy, Mr Hawksley said. In contrast, being able to upgrade a boiler is a far more affordable solution, helping to cut fuel bills and emissions by an average of 20 per cent.