The government has published proposals to lift fuel poor homes to a Band C energy efficiency rating by 2030.

The new proposals will mean that future governments will be legally required to lift as many fuel poor homes as is reasonably practical to EPC Band C. The department of energy and climate change (DECC) plans on introducing a staggered system that would see as many homes as possible raised to Band E by 2020, and Band D by 2025.

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey said: “These proposals mark a radical shift away from old policies of tinkering at the edges without tackling the root causes of fuel poverty – homes that need too much energy and leak too much heat to be able to keep warm.

“We’ll target the worst properties first, where people in the most extreme cases face paying over £1,500 more than they need to. We’ll work with partners – including GPs and others working in healthcare – to make sure the right help gets to those who need it the most.”

DECC calculates that only 5% of England’s 2.3 million fuel poor homes have an EPC rating of C. The department calculates that an average C-rated home has energy bills that can be more than £1,000 lower than a F or G-rated property.

Derek Lickorish, chairman of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, greeted the proposals set out in the Cutting the Cost of Keeping Warm consultation with ‘cautious optimism’. He said: “The government’s announcement of a new 2030 fuel poverty target has been eagerly anticipated and I welcome the details being announced today…For many fuel poor households, action is needed now – so it’s right to have specific ambitions for the nearer-term too, starting with those in the deepest fuel poverty.

“The new target should galvanise much-needed activity across the country so that we can make a real difference to people’s lives by reducing anxiety and ill health.”

However, Ed Matthew director of the Energy Bill Revolution fuel poverty alliance heavily criticised the new proposals. He said: “The government has at last recognised that energy efficiency is the only long term solution to end the fuel poverty crisis. The UK has the oldest building stock in Europe and one of the most badly insulated. As a result we have one of the worse rates of fuel poverty and winter deaths.

“But this strategy is so full of holes they will never plug the UK’s fuel poor homes. The target to bring all fuel poor homes up to EPC Band C by 2030 is too far away and they have not committed to bringing homes up to this standard in one go, killing off the prospect of whole house retrofits and condemning millions of people to suffer the scourge of fuel poverty for yet another generation. Also by saying the government only has to do what is ‘reasonably practicable’  they don’t have to spend a penny on the programme. This makes the targets they are setting meaningless.”

In addition, Davey announced proposed changes to the private rented sector that would see domestic tenants receive the right to request that their landlords carry out energy efficiency improvements from 2016. A further move will disallow landlords from renting out any property with an EPC rating lower than E from 2018.

The government has also confirmed that it will be extending the ECO scheme out to 2017 after it was initially due to end next year.