Why we need an Energy Bill Revolution

With the longest cold snap of the winter still underway, and snow covering much of the country, what can be done to protect older people from the cold?

As we get older, we become more vulnerable to the effects of cold. If you have read previous Age UK blogs, you’ll be familiar with the statistics: around 25,000 additional deaths each winter compared to the rest of the year in England and Wales, the majority of which are older people.

For every one degree the average winter temperature drops below 18 degrees C, there are 8,000 additional winter deaths. Following a cold snap in a British winter, there is a predictable pattern: a peak of deaths due to heart attacks two days later, a peak of strokes five days later, and a peak of deaths due to breathing problems twelve days later.

It’s simple, and devastating, and something which we should all be shouting about.

At Age UK we’re helping to make people aware of the health risks of cold and the simple steps – like keeping bedroom windows closed at night – that older people can take to protect their health.

Photo: Ell Brown (Creative Commons)
Photo: Ell Brown (Creative Commons)

But the bottom line is that many older people simply cannot afford to keep their home warm enough. Age UK estimates that around 6 million older people are currently living in fuel poverty (in other words, they would have to spend more than 10% of their income in order to heat their homes adequately). Increasing fuel prices this winter mean this situation is set to get worse.

Age UK believes that the most effective long term solution is to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of older people’s homes. As a nation, we have some of the poorest insulated housing stock in Europe.  Our homes leak heat from walls, windows and ceilings. But this can be tackled – we have the technology to make everyone’s home super-insulated, warm and cheap to heat.

The Government is launching their new flagship policy for home energy efficiency, the Green Deal. It’s a market based system, offering loans to fund energy efficiency improvements. Alongside it runs the new Energy Company Obligation, ECO, which will fund both ‘hard to treat’ homes – for example, properties with solid walls – and vulnerable households, including those in fuel poverty.

But even the Government’s own estimates show that these policies are not going to be sufficient to tackle the vast numbers of people who cannot afford to heat their homes.

We need a new approach. We need to comprehensively and systematically bring the energy efficiency of our housing stock up to levels where everyone can live in a warm, well-insulated home.

Investment on this scale costs. But there is a potential source of revenue which would deliver enough funding. We are all now paying carbon taxes on our energy bills. These taxes were brought in to compensate for the damage that carbon emissions cause to people and the environment. Over the next 15 years it’s estimated that they will bring in up to £63 billion. At the moment, this money is being used for general spending.

But it could be used to make all our homes super-energy efficient. Investing in home energy efficiency will not only help older people keep themselves warm and protect their health, it would also lower energy bills, reduce carbon emissions and create UK jobs. The benefits would be huge. Other European governments such as France have already announced that they are planning to use carbon revenues in this way.

It’s so simple, it almost seems a no-brainer. But to persuade the Government to make this happen, we need more than a good idea. We need broad support from a range of organisations and a large number of individuals to make this happen.

That is why Age UK has joined with others in the Energy Bill Revolution, an alliance of over one hundred organisations, including charities, businesses and trade unions. Together we are calling on the Government to use our carbon taxes to super-insulate our homes.

Please will you add your voice to the Energy Bill Revolution petition today

9 thoughts on “Why we need an Energy Bill Revolution”

  1. just worked out what percentage of my income goes on fuel bills and its around 8.8% and i am classed as high user.I am 70 and live in a 1 bed-roomed bungalow. yet my gas bill is (at present) £54 per month .electric £32 per month. total of £87 per month. i have gas central heating. upgraded 3 years ago. loft insulation checked only last year. and a gas fire i never use because when it was put in by the council no consideration was given to those too disabled to bend down to the knob at the bottom right side of the fire. we weren’t even told that that was where it was even though those responsible knew they were dealing with elderly and disabled adults.
    electric .. i use washer and condenser dryer 3 x weekly. 2-3 full loads each time. (cant hang out to dry and cant do with wet washing hanging on radiators etc due to asthma and COPD.). cooker…rarely used unless i want cheese on toast n that’s just to melt the cheese….dish washer used 5/7 days.combination microwave/oven. used to heat ready meals. scramble eggs, heat soup or milk for drinks 3/4 times a day. total of appox 20 mins per day.
    toaster. 2 small slices bread every morning.electric can opener used rarely. one cup kettle. 2-3 times a day for less than 1 minute each time.electric shower…. used for 10 mins per day. 15 mins if washing my hair approx 2 x weekly.at the most. lights. all energy saving bulbs except for desk /table and bed head lamps. halogen bulb desk;amp used 4/7 evenings. table lamp used rarely but uses daytime bulb.40 watts halogen bed head lamps . 1 used nightly around an hour each night. room lights…. lounge/hall on 24/7. bedroom on all night every night. kitchen used all day 10am – from 12mn-4am.bathroom one. 10-15 minutes daily. thats it sounds a lot but it is no different to countless others n probably a lot less fuel/energy used.or should be than others.

    1. they cant do that Tom, we are plebs. we aren’t in their elite group. we are old. of no consequence etc etc etc/just like those who are disabled, ill even terminally ill. (we all asked for our horrible medical ailments remember?), those working but not earning enough so rely on benefits to top their wages up. or unemployed….i am sure those being made redundant by the demise of HMV and the other firms going bust, also asked to be chucked on the scrap heap like 1000’s before them.no industry left. no jobs that pay a living wage.
      we have been lucky so far. they’ve not touched the pensioners…though we too have to stretch our money further with all the rises in costs of food, fuel etc.. but i for one dont expect more from this lot nor do i expect our exemption from their nasty reforms will be avoided for much longer. they will take not give.

    1. Think this goverment should give free heating to all over 70s it would save a lot of people dying in the winter or do the goverment not worry over older people well it would save them a lot money if we all died over sixty five then the would not have to pay out the pension that we work for over 50 years service to this country

  2. must admit its a nice thought. but an impossible one for this lot to even think of even if we were to get the fairies to whisper the idea into their ears while they are asleep. if they do sleep.lol.yes i know there are no fairies either..

  3. The phrase “no brainer” as used by Mary Milne is entirely right here. Energy currently being lost due to poor home insulation is the equivalent of the power produced by many power stations or the consumtion of huge amounts of fuel. So with all the costs and planning issues surrounding the provision of new power generation capacity, and with the implications for global warming of burning fossil fuels, it should obviously be a priority to reduce energy loss by improving insulation. The government says it is currently considering bringing forward infrastructure projects to boost the economy, what better project than to insulate our old housing stock, saving energy and at the same time adding to safety and comfort of our elderly population.

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