Fuel poverty – the next steps?

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The Coalition Government devolved the delivery of fuel poverty policy to the energy supply industry by introducing the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to the household names in the energy supply business. Via their licence to supply, they are obligated to reduce domestic carbon emissions (ie help households to use less energy) by the most cost-effective method.

Scaling back of the Energy Company Obligation 

This turned out to be a programme which added about 5% to gas bills and about 11% to electricity bills  yielding some £1bn per year for remedial fuel poverty work. As global energy prices rose, these ‘extras’ on gas and electricity bills came into the firing line, and the Government scaled back ECO in 2013. With no tax-funded programme in play, and what is effectively a cap on what it obliges energy companies to do, the outlook for those in fuel poverty is bleak.  Continue reading “Fuel poverty – the next steps?”

Re-grouping for a fresh offensive

Heaven knows we need a fresh start. With every tweak of the programmes, with every refinement of the strategy, the prospects of a convincing victory on the core front just get more remote.   The fuel poor get to make harder and harder choices, the old and the young suffer health setbacks, the misery piles up. Words like national disgrace, scandal, heating or eating, become devalued.

We’ve ended up with a totally perverse delivery system. The general consensus is that an area-based, whole-house approach works best: what we’ve got is market-driven, bench-marked by cost-effectiveness, and funded by the energy companies who can’t deliver at scale because of the impact on consumer bills. We have programmes delivering the least satisfactory outcomes. A Written Parliamentary Answer at the end of January says it all.   Citing the latest figures (21 November), it reported the achievements of the Energy Company and Green Deal in 2013.   471,766 measures had been installed in 403,000 houses (an average of 1.17 measures per house – hardly amounting to a whole-house make-over).   394,370 of those measures had been funded by ECO, and 8,485 by householders getting a Green Deal survey then claiming the cashback offer in the scheme. Only 458 had gone ahead with the Green Deal package, including finance. Continue reading “Re-grouping for a fresh offensive”

Cold homes, fuel poverty and healthy lives

It may be measured in baby steps, but at last the Department of Health (DH) is acknowledging the importance of cold homes, and living in fuel poverty, to the health debate.

Age UK’s lobbying and campaigning on fuel poverty issues is strongly grounded on the health implications – the ill-health arising from not keeping adequately warm, measured both in terms of human suffering and costs to the NHS – so this engagement by the DH is a significant advance.  Two short reports from Age UK have looked at recent public health initiatives to assess their impact.

aOne is concerned with the Warm Homes Healthy People programme.  This was announced as a ‘one-off’ in 2011, then repeated in 2012.

It was a £20m prize pot to which local authorities were invited to bid, provided their proposals were to address ‘winter pressures’, and provided they were doing so in partnership with the local voluntary and community groups.

It stimulated a remarkable range of varied activities, from clearing snow and going shopping in adverse weather, to providing hot meals and issuing ‘winter survival packs’, to checking electric blankets and checking benefit entitlements.

It drove a wave of local, community activity, and local Age UK partners were substantially involved. This report looks at their experience of the project, and it is overwhelmingly supportive. Continue reading “Cold homes, fuel poverty and healthy lives”

Fuel poverty statistics

The latest annual report from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) covers the year 2011 – many energy price hikes and policy changes ago.   The headline is that in England, the numbers of households in fuel poverty fell, from 3.3m in 2010 to 3.2m (and in the UK from 4.75m to 4.5m).   These are the households which need to spend 10% or more of their income on energy to keep adequately warm, a definition we have all become accustomed to using.   But DECC’s report has turned into a statistical soup, as it struggles to introduce a new definition of fuel poverty (which measures two different things), and reports anyway on a year long forgotten.

200x160_gas_hob_g_mainFor what it’s worth, 2011 was mild (for both the winter months at the beginning and end), and this led to a fall in national domestic energy consumption.   It was also the last year when the (now abolished) Warm Front programme was operating at full speed – the tax-funded grant programme targeted on low income households – so energy efficiency improvements were driving forward alongside the schemes offered by the energy supply companies to save energy.

Continue reading “Fuel poverty statistics”

Guest blog – Energy Bill Revolution

This blog was contributed by Ed Matthew, Director of the Energy Bill Revolution. 

The recent prediction from the energy regulator OFGEM that energy bills are likely to rise as the UK becomes more dependent on gas is more bad news for British households facing ever mounting financial pressure.

The average dual fuel energy bill now costs a household over £1,400 each year. As the energy bills bite, fuel poverty is now rocketing out of control, affecting 1 in 4 families in the UK. A fuel poverty crisis is unfolding before our eyes.

Behind these figures lies a real human tragedy. Thousands of older people die from the cold every year and in extreme cases people are left with the stark 220x220_woman_adjusting_thermostatchoice of whether to feed their family or heat their home. Many of those most affected are the most vulnerable, older people, the disabled and young children.

The reaction of the Government to this crisis is lamentable. Despite their protestations that they are doing all they can to help the figures speak for themselves. They have cut spending on the fuel poor by 26% and slashed funding for energy efficiency measures for the fuel poor by 44%.  This is despite the fact that experts recognise by far the best long term solution to fuel poverty is to super insulate the UK housing stock.  The result is that fuel poverty is getting worse and by 2016 there could be up to 9 million households in fuel poverty. Continue reading “Guest blog – Energy Bill Revolution”