HC Deb 08 January 2002 vol 377 cc575-6W
Mr. Llwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) what steps his Department is taking to ensure delivery of energy efficiency services to rural areas; [23948]

(2) what representations he has received concerning constraints on delivery of energy efficiency services to rural areas. [23951]

Mr. Meacher

I have been asked to reply.

General energy efficiency advice is available through Energy Efficiency Advice Centres (EEACs). A network of 52 centres around the country provides advice to all areas. In addition, the Environment and Energy Helpline is available for businesses, whatever their location, to provide guidance and advice.

The Government's main grant programme for improving the energy efficiency of private sector households is the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES). The two scheme managers—Eaga Partnerships Ltd. and TXU Warm Front Ltd. —are responsible for marketing the programme across the country. Both scheme managers provide regular progress reports on the effectiveness of these programmes.

They use a variety of methods including working with health professionals such as practice nurses and health visitors together with social workers and others involved in the health or welfare of vulnerable clients. The scheme managers also enter into partnerships with bodies such as travelling libraries, which visit rural communities on a regular basis, and Meals on Wheels. In addition, a travelling bus has been used as a focal point to reach those in outlying areas.

One of the five Warm Zones the Government are piloting has been set up in Northumberland to test an area, rather than a referral-based mechanism, for reaching the fuel poor. The purpose is to test whether this improves the take-up of the scheme in rural areas.

The Government are aware that the construction of some rural properties coupled with lack of access to the main gas network can make it difficult to make homes energy efficient. The Fuel Poverty Strategy sets out our intention to carry out large scale pilots using renewable energy sources and micro combined heat and power to explore how these technologies could be used to help the fuel poor.