ECO Flex Explainer
Up to around 10 years ago (and for the previous 40 years) every Council in the country used to get a funding allocation from Government to provide grants and assistance primarily for owner occupiers to address their property condition, including energy efficiency, but the Government decided to abolish this (it was worth £1.8m per year at the time for Stockport) leaving no regular guaranteed funding for private property works.
By working with all Greater Manchester Local Authorities and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), we have bid for every opportunity to secure funding in the intervening years (and have had a good degree of success). This has resulted in a number of Greater Manchester schemes / initiatives over the years aimed at energy efficiency and carbon reduction works, such as the Warm Homes Fund, Green Deal Communities, and Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme.
At a time when energy prices are soaring and these kind of initiatives are needed more than ever, ECO aside, there has been little financial incentive out there for private home-owners to make energy efficiency improvements.
Let me explain more about how the Government and energy companies have previously set-up the Energy Company Obligation or ECO as it is known:
- ECO is the ‘green’ levy we all pay on our energy bills to the energy firms, which you can find on your own energy statements. The energy firms agree with the Government exactly what measures this funding can be spent on and the proportion on which type of measure.
- The energy companies then enter into arrangements with suitable contractors who can provide insulation and heating installations to homeowners.
- The energy companies will then provide contractors with ECO monies to deliver the installation works – arrangements do differ around the country with some energy companies finding the households and others putting the obligations on the contractors to ‘market’ and identify the properties.
- For the contractors to be reimbursed for their ECO work, the property or household needs to meet the set qualifying criteria which is specified by the Government – this could be householders receiving benefit or that they are means tested or that their property is below a particular EPC rating.
How does ECO Flex differ?
ECO Flex allows local Councils to set their local household qualifying criteria – meaning that households within their areas that meet these broader criteria would qualify for ECO works – but the exact works is down to that energy company / contractor / Government agreement as explained above. However, all energy companies are able to spend up to 50% of their ECO funding through ECO Flex.
The eligibility criteria set by all 10 Greater Manchester Councils is available at:
GMCA ECO4 Flexible Eligibility Statement of Intent v4 (greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk)
For ECO Flex, the contractor / energy company needs a signature from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) for each household to confirm they meet the local Council’s qualifying criteria. The contractor / energy company submits this to the Government in order to claim the credit and prove that the household meets the local Council’s criteria. In theory, there could be 343 different local criteria (one for each Council in the UK).
The Government guidance to Councils is that they should work with a limited number of contractors / energy companies so there is a direct relationship and understanding with them. Through GMCA, the ten Greater Manchester Local Authorities have now procured three contractors, with each Local Authority having just one contractor to work directly with.
The three contractors are: Improveasy Ltd, Next Energy Solutions Ltd and PHS Home Solutions Ltd T/A 0800 Repair. Here are the areas within Greater Manchester that they will cover as well as their contact details if you wish to apply:
|Manchester, Stockport, Trafford||Improveasy Ltd||improveasy.com
0800 024 8505
|Bolton, Salford, Wigan||Next Energy Solutions Ltd||nextenergyuk.co.uk
0800 021 3145
|Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Tameside||PHS Home Solutions Ltd T/A 0800 Repair||www.0800repair.com
0800 737 247
In practice, while Councils may help promote ECO Flex in their area, it is the contractors and energy companies that process applications and determine exactly what energy efficiency measures would qualify. The appointed energy companies / contractors would then present evidence back to the Council to confirm that the household and property meets the local qualifying criteria and seek the Council’s signature to confirm eligibility.
GMCA have provided details on their website – and we will provide links from the Stockport website. If this operates like previous initiatives, GMCA / local Councils may also help identify areas that are likely to contain qualifying properties / households for proactive marketing.