At least £540 million of the government's home energy efficiency programme will be targeted at helping the poorest, announced Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg this week.

The programme, worth £1.3 billion per year, will fund energy saving improvements for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, protecting them from rising energy bills by upgrading their homes.

The Green Deal is the government’s plan to upgrade the nation’s hardest to heat homes at no upfront cost. Where the cost of the work outweighs the savings, or people need extra financial help, energy companies will step in to top up the loan under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

In his speech to leading environment and industry figures, Clegg said: “It is shameful that the UK still has so many families unable to heat their homes. By delivering lasting improvements, each year this money will help 180,000 of the poorest households make their homes cheaper to heat for good.”

In light of responses to the recent public consultation on the Green Deal, the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) are considering ways to provide more targeted support for the lowest income homes.

This could mean that for those living in the poorest areas, including in social housing, specific support will be available to upgrade homes and flats with loft and cavity wall insulation, as well as other measures, to make them warmer and cheaper to run.

The ECO will also provide further support, alongside discounts on energy bills and the Winter Fuel Payment, to help the fuel poor heat their homes to a healthy level more affordably by installing insulation or new boilers.

The eligibility criteria for the Affordable Warmth element of the ECO is to be increased to include low income households on working tax credit so that more fuel poor families can be helped.

More support will be given for solid wall insulation, including hard to treat cavity walls, and where this is being installed it can be accompanied by other measures which reduce heat loss from a property, such as glazing and draught proofing.

Energy companies will be allowed to carry forward overachievement against their targets under the current Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) and count it towards their ECO targets.

These changes are designed to help smooth the transition for the insulation industry between current schemes and the Green Deal.