Energy bills set to hit highest peak since price cap introduced

Millions of people across Britain are set to be hit with the highest fuel bills since a price cap was introduced, according to a new analysis of data.

With wholesale prices increasing [1], Ofgem is set to announce an increase in fuel bills as early as 6 August. Around 15m people on default tariffs and pre-payment meters will be affected.

The move, estimated by Cornwall Insight analysts to see bills increase by £112 a year, will hit homes from 1 October [2]. Just as furlough comes to an end and the nation heads into winter. Such a rise would mean bills for homes on a standard variable tariff will be £226 higher than in February 2017. [3]

Calculations by the Coalition, provided to The Guardian, estimate that the price rise will force an additional 392,000 households into fuel poverty. [4]

  Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said:

Over 4m people are behind on their household bills and a second Ofgem price cap rise this year will be disastrous for the millions on the brink of fuel poverty.

Any price cap rise will only make matters worse for families struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, people are still reeling from the increases in bills caused by stay at home lockdown measures for the last 18 months.

While people’s attention is diverted by the rush out of lockdown, the reality is that the countdown to winter is on and it is a race against time. Any price rise – however small – will mean the choice between heating or eating becomes even starker later this year.

If that wasn’t bad enough, fuel poverty can make respiratory illnesses worse – meaning conditions such as Covid may be exacerbated by living in cold damp homes.

Short-term energy saving measures and shopping around for cheaper energy can help reduce bills, but the scale of the problem faced by people this year is huge and any increases during the pandemic and the recovery should be avoided.

We’d urge Ofgem and policy makers to think again about the price cap rise, or the Government to step in and provide emergency financial support to those who suffer due to the decision.”

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action, commented:

With thousands dying of cold every year the current energy pricing system – complete with price caps – is not fit for purpose.  As prices rise, a carbon tax rebate would help, but won’t solve this.

We need a new pricing framework, where poorer people don’t pay higher rates than the rich.

We need well-insulated housing, renewable energy, and wages and benefits that meet our costs. No special provisions or consumer protection will stop fuel poverty from killing pensioners and wrecking childhoods. The pandemic has taught millions that real change can’t wait.

Matt Copeland, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at National Energy Action said:

The price cap is an important measure to ensure that households are not exposed to excess profits in the energy market. However, if prices rise as is expected, Ofgem and Government must work together to help those worst affected by rising utility debt in order to avoid a devastating winter for people in and on the brink of fuel poverty. This must be combined with a long-term boost to spending to improve energy efficiency of buildings.

Without intervention, more people will remain cold at home during the winter, be more susceptible to respiratory illness, and unfortunately many will die. That is a truly unacceptable outcome, especially as the solutions to avoid it are well known.

Frazer Scott, CEO of Energy Action Scotland, commented:

More than a quarter of Scottish households are living in fuel poverty with many of these households living off the gas grid, dependent on electricity. The anticipated price rises will have a catastrophic effect on struggling households particularly as the job retention scheme ends and the Scottish winter approaches.

Scotland needs a fuel poverty strategy as a matter of urgency to ensure that we are prioritising the homes and families most in need. We must move quickly in order to protect our health service from the additional burden created by cold, damp homes and we must see adequate investment from Scottish Government that will eradicate the national shame that is fuel poverty.

Ben Saltmarsh, Chair of Fuel Poverty Coalition Cymru and Head of NEA Cymru, added:

Hundreds of thousands of households in Wales already struggle to keep warm at home. Far too many must ration essentials, cutting back on heating and electric. If these price rises come to bear, people will find it even harder still.

It is vital that the Welsh Government follows through with the promises that it made in its Fuel Poverty Plan to support the worst-affected first; upgrading the energy efficiency of fuel poor homes, maximising incomes, and working with partners, including the UK Government and Ofgem, to protect Welsh households.

[1] Wholesale prices on Zenergi show a rise of between 19% and 42% (from 2/6/21 to 30/6/21).

[2] Cornwall Insight data from energy analysts forecasts that the price cap on standard and default tariffs will rise in October to around £1,250/yr for a typical dual-fuel household paying by direct debit, up from the current price of £1,138/yr.

[3] End Fuel Poverty Coalition analysis of official Ofgem announcements.

[4] The calculation is based on EFRA Select Committee on Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty HC37 2009 and Fuel Poverty Methodology handbook BEIS / BRE, updated September 2016 which estimates that for every 1% rise in energy prices an additional 40,000 homes go into fuel poverty. The rise from 1138 to 1250 is a 9.8% rise so that equates to 392,000 (40,000 * 9.8).

New figures show 3m households face fuel poverty

Press Association have reported that the English government has released the latest fuel poverty statistics, the first since an updated definition of fuel poverty was adopted.

The change to the definition came following a consultation on a new fuel poverty strategy for England.

The Coalition supported the widening of the definition to include all low income households living in cold homes (the ‘Low Income, Low Energy Efficiency’ indictor). It is believed this will better incentivise energy efficiency.

This initially suggested that the number of fuel poor households in England would sit at 3.66 million: an increase from 2.4m using the previous definition.

However, the new figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggest the proportion of families in fuel poverty will fall from 13.4% or 3.18 million homes in 2019, to 12.5% or 3 million homes in 2021.

The latest figures suggest 180,000 households are being brought out of fuel poverty between 2019 and 2021, around 90,000 a year, driven by improvements to energy efficiency that lift properties up to a rating of C or above. But nearly half of low-income households are still living in homes with poor energy efficiency.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said:

These figures are the first under the new measurement for fuel poverty and show the scale of the challenge facing governments – both at a national and local level.

While any predicted reduction in fuel poverty is to be welcomed, we are concerned that the reduction in Covid financial support later this year will offset any improvement predicted.

We also need to see continued and renewed emphasis on delivering policies that will end fuel poverty as quickly as possible.

Image: Shutterstock

Government axes £700 million of Green Homes Grant Funding

The Westminster Government sneaked out an announcement – over the weekend and during Parliamentary recess – that a key part of its support to end fuel poverty has been axed.

After just six months delivering vital home energy saving measures, the Green Homes Grant (GHG) voucher scheme – which was at the heart of last year’s Summer Statement – is to close its doors to new applications on 31 March at 5pm.

Even with the welcome and newly announced £300m funding to low-income households through the extension of the Local Authority Delivery (LAD) scheme, NEA estimates that the majority of the original £1.5bn GHG budget will now be returned to HM Treasury.

This equates to around £700 million of underspent funding which should have been keeping homes warmer and helping us build back better in the wake of the pandemic.

Despite being the essential cornerstone of any credible energy policy, the fortunes of energy efficiency programmes have blown hot, then cold and often ended prematurely leaving the industry and households high and dry. In stark contrast, devolved governments in the rest of the UK have successfully run low income energy efficiency schemes for many years.

William Baker, a representative from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty (STEP) and member of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

England is fast under threat of becoming the coldest part of the UK to live for those most at risk of fuel poverty.

Cutting off the Green Homes Grant programme in its prime is a disaster for people banking on this to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and lift them out of fuel poverty.

It is a shame that the Westminster government has not sought to learn from the positive experiences of delivering energy efficiency programmes in other parts of the UK.

Unlike its predecessors, the Green Home Grant has not been axed due to a lack of take up. The latest data shows that following its launch in September there has been significant interest in the scheme by members of the public with 82,800 household applications associated to 123,500 vouchers to the end of February 2021.

Regrettably however, given the frequent and very public airings of the significant challenges with the administration of the GHG scheme, the rollover of the scheme’s unspent budget was first cast in doubt and now the scheme has been totally axed.

In the wake of this announcement, The End Fuel Poverty Coalition calls for three urgent actions:

  1. Low-income households that applied for the higher GHG voucher must get the measures they so desperately need

Shockingly, out of over 60,000 applications only around 25% of low-income households have had their vouchers issued and only 904 vouchers have been paid. This means the vast majority are still waiting for any assistance and continue to live in cold, damp homes.

  1. Installers must be paid

Many organisations have however worked very hard to make the GHG a success and the impact on their business, agency or charity of the closure of GHG may be very significant. One of the most frequent challenges with the administration of the GHG scheme has been installers not being paid promptly when work is carried out. Overall, only 2,900 vouchers have been paid out.

  1. Close the gap

The final immediate challenge which must now be urgently confronted is the gap in provision that GHG will leave. The upcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy will now be even more vital in setting out the future of energy efficiency policy over this Parliament. It will also need to set out how any key lessons can be learnt for the GHG’s demise so that delivery risks aren’t simply outsourced away from central government to local authorities.

This learning will be particularly critical to inform the rollout of the Conservative’s original manifesto commitments to support fuel poor households via the new Home Upgrade Grant (HUG), the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) and the upcoming new phase of the expanded Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

Only once these new programmes are in place and are reaping the types of positive outcomes we all hoped GHG would help deliver can we finally live up to the soundbites and truly build back better and deliver a fair transition to net zero.

Image: Shutterstock

Ofgem announces hike in fuel bills for millions

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition, a broad coalition of anti-poverty, environmental, health and housing campaigners, charities, local authorities, trade unions and consumer organisations, has criticised the decision to increase fuel bills for an estimated 11m people:

At the last count, 3.7 million households were already classified as living in fuel poverty and more than 2.1 million more were behind on their fuel bills.

Any price cap rise will only make matters worse for families struggling to make ends meet at the same time as bills are rocketing due to stay at home lockdown measures and the closure of schools.

While the price cap rises may seem small to officials, for ordinary people any increase will mean the choice between heating or eating becomes even starker.

If that wasn’t bad enough, fuel poverty can make respiratory illnesses worse – meaning conditions such as Covid may be exacerbated by living in cold damp homes.

Short-term energy saving measures and shopping around for cheaper energy can help reduce bills, but the scale of the problem faced by people this year is huge and any increases during the pandemic should be avoided.

We’d urge Ofgem and policy makers to think again about the price cap rise, or the Government to step in and provide emergency financial support to those who suffer due to the decision.

Support for households who are in fuel poverty is available from organisations such as Citizens Advice and can be found in our resources section.

Fuel bills set to soar under latest work from home rules

New research from Nottingham Trent University has revealed the likely impact of the latest work from home restrictions on fuel poverty.

According to the experts, working from home could cost some households an extra £45 per month more this winter in increased heating and electricity bills.

The Fuel Poverty Coalition told the BBC:

Increasing numbers of people right across the country are having to make the stark choice between heating and eating. As temperatures continue to hover around freezing and lockdown restrictions mean people are spending more time at home, so energy bills will soar.

Recently, Citizens Advice estimated an extra 600,000 households fell into fuel poverty due to previous lockdowns.

Separate figures show millions of people are already way behind on their fuel bills meaning the latest findings from Nottingham Trent University make for grim reading.

The additional concern is that, according to experts, fuel poverty can make respiratory illnesses worse – meaning conditions such as Covid may be exacerbated by cold damp homes.

While the long term solution to ending fuel poverty is more energy efficient buildings, and programmes like the Government’s Green Homes Grant will help facilitate this, there is a real need for energy debt relief for millions of families immediately.

Employers could help by paying the energy bills of staff working from home, but it is likely that the government will need to step in to provide much more emergency support to those living in freezing conditions right now.

A study led by Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh, an expert in energy efficiency and intelligent engineering systems, shows that people in England’s 600,000 most inefficient properties could face almost an extra £28 in heating bills per month while the average pandemic home
worker will pay more than £17 extra on electricity.

However, those who previously commuted long distances to work, and who live in energy efficient properties, could make savings by working from home and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time.

Professor Al-Habaibeh, of the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, said:

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing many people to work from home and this clearly has a major effect on domestic energy consumption, as well as the nature of our carbon
emissions.

The results show that a family living in a well-insulated home and who normally use a car to travel to work will not be affected significantly in terms of their household budget, as they will save on diesel or petrol.

It also shows that the increase of carbon emissions from heating their homes will on the whole be compensated by the reduction in car use.

But for a family with a poorly insulated house who in normal circumstances do not travel long distances to work, working from home over winter will cause much more of a strain on their budget as they will be consuming more energy.

Researcher Arijit Sen, who worked on the project, said:

There is clearly a risk highlighted here that households which already suffer from energy poverty could experience a worse
financial situation during a winter lockdown if they are working from home.

While many people in employment will be better off financially due to the current situation, there will be a number of people who will find working from home a much more expensive
option for them. This project shows the importance of building insulation and its effect on household budget.

MPs demand fuel poverty answers

MPs from across the political spectrum have been demanding answers from the government on fuel poverty in recent weeks.

The answers have shown how the government is committed to taking steps to reduce fuel poverty – but that more needs to be done.

Rebecca Long-Bailey (Lab, Salford & Eccles) asked the Department for Health whether people in cold homes and in fuel poverty will be at higher risk from the worst effects covid-19 in winter 2020-21.

The Minister, Jo Churchill, replied:

As the United Kingdom heads into its first winter with COVID-19, the impacts of the concurrent risks of COVID-19, cold weather and fuel poverty are not yet known. In light of the concurrent risk of COVID-19, Public Health England will be reviewing the Cold Weather Plan for England and related resources ahead of this winter.

Ms Long-Bailey put further pressure on, asking what assessment the Government has made of the effect of fuel poverty on trends in the level of respiratory problems. The government referred to an Atlas of Variation of trends which will require further examination by fuel poverty experts.

Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour, South Shields) asked if the government would look at proposals suggested by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition to ensure debt relief for those in extreme fuel poverty. Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng replied:

The Department is working with Ofgem to assess the level and impact of domestic consumer energy debt this winter and we will continue to review options to support energy customers in debt, including those in or at risk of fuel poverty.

David Linden (SNP, Glasgow East) took the issue further, asking the Prime Minister:

With 2.4 million households in the UK facing fuel poverty this winter, a figure that will only be exacerbated by the pandemic, will the Prime Minister consider introducing a one-off covid-19 winter fuel payment to every household at risk.

The Prime Minster replied that the government “will consider all sorts of measures to alleviate poverty and suffering in the months ahead.”

William Wragg (Conservative, Hazel Grove) asked about support for energy efficiency, which saw Treasury Minister Kemi Badenoch reply:

The Government recognise the importance of energy efficiency in achieving our climate change objectives and tackling fuel poverty. That is why in July my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced over £2 billion of new funding to upgrade homes through the green homes grant scheme. In addition, we have a range of policies in place to support home energy efficiency improvements.

Nadia Whittome (Labour, Nottingham East) raised the subject of fuel poverty among those in rented accommodation. Prompting Minister Kwarteng to respond:

We intend to consult on strengthening the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards in due course, in line with our Clean Growth Strategy aspiration for privately rented properties to reach EPC Band C by 2030 where practical, affordable and cost-effective. Landlords will also be eligible for subsidised energy efficiency measures through the Green Homes Grant scheme this autumn.

Martyn Day (SNP, Linlithgow & Falkirk East) has demanded the government make an annual statement to the House of Commons on fuel poverty. The issue of the Fuel Poverty Strategy for England has also been raised and while it has been over 55 weeks since the consultation on the strategy closed, the Minister is still hopeful it will be published. In response to Sarah Olney (Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park), the Minister said:

We intend to publish an updated Fuel Poverty Strategy for England in due course which will provide further information on the range of schemes available to support low income and vulnerable households in improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

Luke Evans (Conservative, Bosworth), Colleen Fletcher (Labour, Coventry North East) also raised local fuel poverty issues with Ministers stressing they understood the danger of the issue.

Warning of difficult winter ahead for fuel poor households

A new report warns of significant hardship for fuel poor households in the coming winter, as a potent combination of higher energy use resulting from staying at home for longer is mixed with reductions in income.

The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor, produced by fuel poverty charities National Energy Action and Energy Action Scotland, collected evidence from 73 organisations to understand the impact that Covid-19 has had on energy consumers, and look ahead to the challenges they will face this winter.

The research found that three quarters of frontline organisations are concerned that there is a high risk that fuel debt will increase this winter as a direct result of the pandemic, while 98% believe that there is a moderate or high risk of more households cutting back on their energy use due to being forced to spend more time at home during lockdown periods.

The risks were found to be most acute for prepayment meter households, who found it more difficult to top up when asked not to leave their homes, and many of whom will be in significant debt even before this winter. This creates a particularly stark situation in Northern Ireland, where a far greater proportion of the population uses prepayment energy meters.

This supports broader evidence that this winter will be particularly hard for those that struggle to afford a warm home:

  • Over the last five winters the number of excess winter deaths due to living in a cold home is estimated at approximately 10,000 per year.
  • During the lockdown months, energy efficiency measure installs dropped by almost 90%, the equivalent to 30,000 fewer measures installed.
  • In the event of a winter lockdown, families in cold, leaky homes would face heating bills elevated £49 higher than those in well insulated homes.
  • One in three British households are concerned about the health impacts of living in a cold home this winter.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of National Energy Action (NEA) said:

Cold weather always hits fuel poor households hard. This winter, the mixture of reduced incomes, higher energy costs and the heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 will be a lethal cocktail for thousands of vulnerable people.

The experience of frontline organisations, working with some of the most vulnerable households, cries out for increasing the level of support and advice that is available

In the spring we needed to react quickly and adapt to the crisis. That happened pretty well. For the winter we can plan and resource properly. If we don’t, the cost will be high indeed”.

Frazer Scott, Director of Energy Action Scotland (EAS) and co-author of the report concludes:

 Scotland is facing a particularly challenging winter this year. As industry struggles to return to work improving housing for the most vulnerable, and job losses combine with the end of debt repayment holidays, tens of thousands of households are facing a very worrying time.

Estimates see fuel poverty rates in Scotland rising to 29% of households many of whom will be facing the threat of a harsh Scottish winter in a cold, damp home. Many of these people will become ill in an all too familiar pattern and will be forced to rely upon NHS Scotland which is already facing unprecedented pressures on its services this year.

Unlike some of the problems we face as a country, there are many proven solutions to fuel poverty. Let us make this the year we act upon them and prioritise the most vulnerable in society with help.”  

Although there are increased risks this winter, the report finds that action can still be taken to mitigate the impacts of the virus on fuel poor households this winter by:

  • Improving the identification of customers in need, by using all available data.
  • Improving the awareness and communication of available assistance.
  • Providing support for prepayment energy customers.
  • Addressing the increasing amounts of energy debt that have accrued as a result of the crisis.
  • Addressing a hiatus in policy making, and policy programme delivery

Hundreds of thousands set to be forced into fuel poverty

Over 200,000 households are set to fall into fuel poverty as the economy struggles to recover from lockdown, according to new estimates. [1]

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition is warning that as the numbers in fuel poverty soar, a future wave of COVID-19 striking during colder weather could be catastrophic for individuals and health services.

Public Health England have declared that there is “clear evidence on the links between cold temperatures and respiratory problems. Resistance to respiratory infections is lowered by cool temperatures and can increase the risk of respiratory illness.” [2]

The Coalition has launched a petition calling on the government to build on announcements in the Economic Statement and take urgent action to save lives and help address the financial impact of the current crisis.

Fuel poverty is caused by low income, high fuel prices, poor energy efficiency, unaffordable housing and poor quality private rental housing. At least 2.4m households in England are already in fuel poverty, affecting 10% of the population. [3]

William Baker, from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty and member of the Coalition, commented:

It has never been more important for the government to fix the roof while the sun is shining.

While it is summer now, colder temperatures are on the way and hundreds of thousands more people will feel the harsh reality of fuel poverty. In just a few months we could see a perfect storm of cold homes, high winter fuel bills and a future wave of COVID-19 hitting the NHS during winter – a period when it always struggles to maintain services.

The Coalition wrote to the Prime Minister on 23 June setting out four steps for the government to take to tackle fuel poverty before the winter.

The Chancellor’s Economic Statement of 8 July introduced partial measures to help improve energy efficiency, but the Coalition argues that the government must go further.

Jacky Peacock, from Advice4Renters, said:

Ending fuel poverty is a public health priority, but it can only be solved through economic measures.

The government must deliver its full manifesto pledge to invest £9.2 billion in building energy efficiency, extend the Warm Home Discount and introduce wider Home Upgrade Grants. It must also take further steps to improve energy standards in the private rented sector, alongside improved security and affordability for private tenants.

Finally, we must see a Fuel Poverty Debt Relief, not deferral of payment, programme introduced to ensure fewer people will have to choose between heating and eating.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action added:

The Chancellor’s £2 billion for energy efficiency retrofits could have done wonders to relieve fuel poverty.  Instead, targeted at homeowners and landlords, it will do very little for renters. And without clear protections, homeowners will be at the mercy of high-pressure sales teams and unskilled retrofitters, who can leave them colder, and poorer, than before.

The public have been asked to show their support for steps to tackle fuel poverty by signing the petition https://www.change.org/EndFuelPoverty.

[1] End Fuel Poverty Coalition calculations. Unemployment is predicted to rocket from 1.29m to 3.08m people by late 2020, with the OECD predicting even higher figures. 3.08m people equates to 1.17m households. 148,000 or 30% of households with an unemployed HRP were fuel poor in 2018 (Government data). This will increase to 351,000 households in late 2020, assuming the fuel poverty rate for the unemployed is still 30% – a growth of over 200,000 households. Furthermore, many more households are likely to be forced into fuel poverty due to both reduced income and higher fuel bills arising from fewer working hours and spending more time in the home. 

[2] PHE, 2014. Warm homes enable immune systems to better fight off viruses, improve the likelihood of people with viruses only suffering ‘mild’ symptoms and help improve the recovery process. See: Baker, Ambrose et. al. https://extra.shu.ac.uk/ppp-online/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/stuck-home-cold-covid-19-fuel-poor.pdf

[3] http://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk/latest-fuel-poverty-data-published/

End Fuel Poverty Coalition writes to Prime Minister

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, warning of the risks of a future wave of COVID-19 striking during colder winter months.

In the letter, copied to Minister Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the Coalition write:

Dear Prime Minister,

Urgent action is needed now to prevent tens of thousands of needless deaths which could overwhelm the country this coming winter.

Evidence from Public Health England (PHE) shows that fuel poverty puts households more at risk from the worst effects of Covid-19.

However, policy to end fuel poverty has been frozen for three years.

Should a second wave of Covid-19 hit during cold weather, the impact could be catastrophic for individuals and our health services.

Energy use is rising as people stay at home more, incomes are being squeezed and improvements in energy efficiency of housing are on hold.

This means the numbers in fuel poverty are set to soar.

While there is currently no cure for Covid-19, cold homes are entirely preventable and four clear actions must be taken to save lives and help address the financial impact of the current crisis:

  • Rapid roll-out of large-scale energy efficiency programmes which would also deliver a green economic stimulus that is shovel ready (e.g. retrofitting of people’s homes and improved heating systems). The Government must confirm their manifesto pledge to invest £9.2 billion in building energy efficiency and bring forward £2.8 billion to invest in the next two years which can support 42,500 jobs across the country and help a million households save an average of £270 on their energy bills. 150,000 jobs could be supported to 2030.
  • Urgent delivery of government promises on tackling fuel poverty, such as extension of Warm Home Discount, introduction of the promised Home Upgrade Grants and social housing decarbonisation programme.
  • Immediate steps to improve energy standards in the private rented sector, alongside improved security and affordability for private tenants.
  • Fuel Poverty Debt Relief (not deferral) to ensure fewer people will have to choose between heating and eating.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition campaigns to influence government and other bodies to take action to end fuel poverty and thereby improve people’s health and quality of life as well as seeking to reduce the cost of living, create jobs and negate carbon emissions in the process. It is a broad coalition of over 20 anti-poverty, environmental, health and housing campaigners, charities, local authorities, trade unions and consumer organisations.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further or to hear your views on this vital issue.

A campaign on the potential devastating impact of fuel poverty combined with COVID-19 this winter will be launched by the Coalition shortly.

To be kept up to date – or join with this campaign – please email info@ endfuelpoverty.org.uk.

Latest fuel poverty data published

The latest data shows that 2.4m households are classed as being in fuel poverty in England.

This represents 10.3% of the population, which is down 0.7 percentage points from the previous figures.

The figures are based on the “old” definition of fuel poverty and not the one recommended by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition in its response to the fuel poverty strategy consultation.

Therefore, the numbers should be treated as an under-estimate of the scale of the problem.

Additionally, the Government has admitted that it does not have enough information to develop assumptions about the impact of Covid-19 on the numbers of households in fuel poverty.

Reports suggest that domestic energy use has increased 15% in the UK during lockdown and the huge increase in the number of people applying for Universal Credit suggest that many more may be struggling with their energy costs.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action which is a member of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said:

Every year around 10,000 people die directly as a result of a cold home. Many thousands more who cannot afford to keep their homes warm are hospitalised, suffer from a severe respiratory condition or just shiver in damp, cold homes.

Over the last decade more than 100,000 people in the UK have lost their lives to a cold home. It is chronicled each year in official excess winter death statistics. Unless the numbers are exceptional, that annual figure seems to be regarded as not ‘excessive’ at all, but within the bounds of some perverse statistical acceptability.

The impact of Covid-19 is truly horrific. But we have been fortunate that, so far, the virus has struck hard during warmer weather.  The possible coincidence of a further wave in a cold winter should make us think long and hard about the steps we need to take to avoid the deadly collision between Covid-19 and fuel poverty related mortality.

Among the many policy decisions delayed due to the coronavirus response are new Fuel Poverty Strategies, decisions on the main fuel poverty programmes and the centrality of domestic energy efficiency within an infrastructure strategy. The delay is understandable, and if used to make the hard connection between cold homes, ill health and vulnerability to early death, that delay could be beneficial.

Cold homes create underlying medical conditions. They take thousands of lives. Deaths and suffering from fuel poverty are not novel, unimaginable or unprecedented. It is an annual catalogue of failure, as society and successive governments to protect the most vulnerable. We know the cause, the scale and the consequence. We know the solutions. At this precise moment we should be more alert to these issues than ever before.