News

Energy Company Obligation rules set out by Government

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has welcomed news that the Government has laid down the regulations for the new “Energy Company Obligation” Scheme to help improve the energy efficiency of peoples homes.

The scheme, known as ECO4, will last until 2026 and will help insulate homes, reducing energy bills. To access the fund, households will need to speak to their energy supplier or social housing landlord.

A spokesperson for the Coalition commented:

It’s welcome that the necessary legislation is finally being laid, but it is absolutely vital that we get swift passage of the regulations before the summer and with cross-party support to ensure no more bumps in the road.

We would also encourage BEIS and Ofgem to continue to work with installers and energy companies to keep up the number of retrofits carried out this summer before further price hikes kick in, and take other steps to ensure effective and smooth delivery (such as tackling supply chain and skills shortage challenges).

There are still some areas where the scheme could be improved, for example in ensuring more advice can be provided and that there is more support for the lowest income households so that those who can make household contributions do not receive overly preferential treatment.

Customers will also need more support if their boilers breakdown. There is a massive reduction in the allowance for this in ECO4, and no good alternative process for emergency (keeping in mind that a heat pump install will take longer could leave households without heating for a longer period in winter).

Finally, given the scale of the current cost of living crisis, more support will be needed to help a wider number of households reduce their energy bills permanently through energy saving measures such as insulation and heat pumps.

We encourage the government to boost existing schemes with new public spending commitments in the forthcoming Autumn Budget.

Government urged to address ten failures in energy bills plans

Fuel poverty campaigners have revealed ten significant failures in the Government plans to address the escalating energy costs this winter.

In a letter to the Chancellor and other Cabinet Ministers, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition has called for a meeting to discuss operational problems with the measures announced by the Government on 26 May.

Among the concerns highlighted by the group of more than 60 charities, trade unions, social enterprises, local government representatives and other campaigners are:

  • A failure of proposals to help those on pre-payment meters, in Park Homes, off-gas, on heat networks and not on electricity meters.
  • The risk that those in the Private Rented Sector will not see the benefits of Government support passed on by landlords.
  • Concerns about how the financial support may impact on the care charges disabled, elderly and vulnerable people are assessed on.

With the winter 2022/23 price cap now predicted to exceed the £2800 Ofgem estimates, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition has also called for wider reform to the energy market.

It warns that further, short-term, financial support for people in fuel poverty will be needed this winter to mitigate any further increases in the price cap above £2800 and support for those suffering already.

The Coalition has also repeated its calls for a review and subsequent reform of the energy supply market to consider the introduction of policies such as a social tariff, energy for all allowance and a total price cap ceiling.

Anne Vivian-Smith, a disabled former community worker from Nottinghamshire, commented:

The lack of urgency from the Government is terrifying. Special tariffs for disabled customers who have unavoidably high energy use need to be created now. Disability benefits have not increased, yet disabled people have very few ways to economise without cutting something essential like food or care.

Heating or eating isn’t a slogan, it’s reality, it’s now and we need help.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

As well as operational concerns about the existing Government support, Ministers must also realise that the measures will only seek to prevent additional homes entering fuel poverty and help to stop many of those in fuel poverty becoming utterly destitute. It will not fundamentally improve the situation of the 6m-plus households already in fuel poverty.

We would urge the Government to make further statements to set out additional financial support for people in fuel poverty this winter, announce co-ordinated action to improve the energy efficiency of our homes and ensure we have a secure, renewable-led, domestic energy supply.

Ian Preston, director of household energy services at the Centre for Sustainable Energy said:

It’s not fair that people, especially those on low incomes, are paying for the energy market failure through bills. If the government insists on reclaiming these costs via our bills, then they should be collected at the unit rate so those that consume more energy pay more. The average annual energy bill increase is significant for people on low incomes, who are already having to make tough choices about paying for energy or other essentials like food. They simply can’t cover any additional costs.

Every month, CSE’s advice service helps thousands of people reduce their bills and we’ve already seen unprecedentedly high numbers of people seeking energy saving or financial advice. Urgent support is needed to cope with the UK pandemic of fuel poverty, but the only long-term solution is insulation.

We need to stop energy waste from cold buildings and homes. If you insulate someone’s home, you are literally insulating them against the cost of energy.”

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action commented:

Instead of further subsidising investment in polluting fossil fuels, the government should be ensuring that every household has enough energy to keep warm and keep the lights on. Energy For All – a free band of energy to cover basic needs – would spur a sudden interest in insulating UK’s notoriously cold damp homes.

Roni Marsh, Money Advice Team Leader at South West London Law Centres, said:

We are seeing clients on prepayment meters who do not have the funds to turn their gas or electric on. South West London Law Centres provides debt advice to help people reduce debts and access additional funds but this does not fix the fact that someone has not got enough money to afford to buy gas or electric.

We are living in the age of heat or eat and we cannot fix this for a client on a limited income.  South West London Law Centres believes that a social tariff is needed. To have to tell someone that there is no way we can reduce their fuel costs any further and give them a foodbank voucher to try and free up the money they would spend on food so they can spend that on fuel instead is not a long term option.

Laura Santamaria, Chair for Fair Energy Campaign, added:

Should a family in a developed country have to choose between heating or eating? As the situation keeps spiralling out of control, the number of households under fuel poverty is increasing exponentially. This unprecedented scenario in UK history has set the scene for urgent action towards energy justice and deep sector reform. Access to clear, affordable energy is a human right.

Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention said:

The NPC has also written urging Ofgem and the Chancellor to work together to urgently look at immediate and long term measures to help those struggling with fast rising energy bills. We don’t believe the Chancellor’s emergency measures are enough to deal with the ongoing hikes in energy prices and we need to see a long term strategy from the government and Ofgem.

The NPC is also asking for: the reduction or removal of Standing Charges; a permanent £500 increase in the Winter Fuel Allowance; an end to Price Discrimination against those who can’t pay online, or by Direct Debit, or who don’t have Smart Meters; the removal of 5% VAT on energy; and major investment in insulation of cold, damp housing.

Georgia Whitaker, Oil Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, added:

It’s no wonder the UK is in the mess it’s in given the incessant short-term thinking in government. Yes, urgent financial support is desperately needed for the millions struggling to pay their bills. But without tackling the root-cause of fuel poverty, this crisis is only going to get worse. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that providing warm homes that waste less energy and cost less to heat will bring down bills, so why is the government so reluctant to invest in improving the efficiency of people’s homes?

A spokesperson for the Chartered Institute of Housing added:

We welcomed the Chancellor’s emergency measures to support people in fuel poverty, but they were only a sticking plaster. The best way to help keep people’s energy bills down, now and in the future, is to invest in a national insulation scheme to tackle energy inefficiency in our homes, which are the leakiest in Europe. Landlords need support from the government to do this effectively and at pace, including funding and programmes to tackle the shortfall in skilled retrofitters across the country.

ENDS

Full copy of the letter to sent to the Chancellor and copied to the Secretary of States at DWP, LUHC and BEIS:

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition welcomes the support you outlined in the House of Commons on 26 May 2022.

Two important principles have now been established:

  • That financial support for those in fuel poverty will be needed in the short-term
  • That the Government has identified the means with which to fund this significant support

However, we have heard concerns from our Members that there are important questions which remain to be answered by your officials in relation to the support on offer.

There are ten key areas we need clarification on:

  1. How will the scheme work to provide funding to the millions of people on pre-payment meters given the challenges of previously used voucher systems?
  2. What steps can be taken to support those in the Private Rented Sector to ensure landlords pass on the full savings of bills (especially in Multiple Occupancy Households)?
  3. What support will be available to the estimated 200,000 people living in Park Homes?
  4. How can financial help reach those households who do not receive electricity bills?
  5. What will the impact of financial support be on the care charges disabled, elderly and vulnerable people are assessed on?
  6. What will the impact of support be on the benefits cap and the minimum income guarantee?
  7. How will access to the Household Support Fund be made easier and consistent across the country?
  8. What other steps will the Government be taking to ensure full take up of benefits this winter?
  9. How can those living off-gas and people on heat networks be better supported by the Price Cap?
  10. What further steps can be taken to support those households already in fuel debt as a result of recent price increases?

We would also request re-assurances that customers will no longer be penalised for the failures in the energy market through standing charges or other costs added to energy bills.

Members of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition have ideas to help address the above questions and we would welcome the opportunity to facilitate a meeting with you and Coalition Members to discuss the proposed solutions.

We are aware that you will have already heard from our Members that we need urgent, co-ordinated, action to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. We would like to take this opportunity to support these calls and also ask you to prioritise funding for a  skills strategy to deliver the “retrofit army” needed to deliver the improvements needed.

We would also request that you recognise that the support provided will only seek to prevent additional homes entering fuel poverty (based on the predicted Ofgem price cap) and stop many of those in fuel poverty becoming utterly destitute. It will not fundamentally improve the situation of the 6m-plus households already in fuel poverty.

Therefore, we would urge you to make further statements to set out further financial support for people in fuel poverty this winter, announce funding for the action needed to improve the energy efficiency of our homes and ensure we have a secure, renewable-led, domestic energy supply.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition calls for further Ofgem action

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has called on Ofgem to instigate five urgent reforms to the energy market to help the millions of homes in fuel poverty.

In a letter to the chief executive of the regulator, the Coalition calls for Ofgem to abandon plans to introduce a quarterly price cap increase in January 2023 which will penalise households in the depths of winter.

It also argues that changes to the price cap must be made to support those on pre-payment meters and add consumer protection to consumers who live off-gas and on heat networks.

As record numbers of households face fuel poverty this winter, the Coalition also calls for Ofgem to work with energy suppliers to create a package of additional support from suppliers for this winter.

The package suggested would be similar in scope to that introduced during the Covid pandemic, but enhanced in its ambition given the numbers of people expected to be in fuel poverty this winter and extend to debt relief rather than deferral.

The Coalition also calls for urgent reform of the regressive and punitive standing charges regime that penalises the most vulnerable.

Longer-term, the Coalition has formally requested that Ofgem reviews the operation of the price cap and works with consumer groups to set out reforms to the market that would offer more support to those in fuel poverty.

Campaigners have urged the regulator to consider the introduction of a price ceiling (i.e. a “super cap” set at current levels over which consumers will not have to pay for fair usage) and the introduction of a social tariff or “energy for all allowance.”

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

With a new political will to address the challenge of the millions of homes fuel poverty, we need to see Ofgem taking action to better support households across the country.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action, said:

Ofgem has supported higher charges for people on prepayment meters, and has added to the burden of the standing charge element of bills. Both force people on low incomes to pay for energy at much higher rates than the wealthy. The current crisis makes it urgent to reverse this grotesque injustice and bring in Energy For All – a free band of energy to make sure that everyone can keep warm and keep the lights on.

Ian Preston, director of household energy services at the Centre for Sustainable Energy said:

While we welcome new measures of support, these are only short-term sticking plasters. To help tackle soaring energy bills and cold homes we need a longer-term, large scale home retrofit programme. This must include a green skills strategy to ensure there are enough people to do the work across all trades. We also need more support for energy advice services. CSE’s energy advice line calls are at an all-time high, and it’s going to be another tough winter for so many people unless urgent action is taken.

Rhiannon Hughes, South West London Law Centres, commented:

Some people on prepayment meters do not have the funds to turn their gas on. South West London Law Centres provides debt advice to help people reduce debts and access additional funds but there needs to be permanent solutions. 

The current system is forcing people into crisis and although advice for fuel bills is critical – a better solution is needed. The high cost of services charges on gas prepayment meters mean that people like my uncle disconnect.

My uncle who is partially sighted, a pensioner and works can not afford to put any money on his prepayment meter, when he does have a bit more cash he tries to turn on his gas for heating but because the service charges have been piling up, it has caused so much debt on the meter that any money he puts on will be swallowed in debt repayment, not on heating.

It is already an unjust situation that is due to get worse so needs urgent reform.

Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention added:

The NPC has also written to Ofgem and the Chancellor asking them to work together to urgently look at immediate and long term measures to help those struggling with fast rising energy bills. We are calling for a number of specific actions before the price cap rises again in October to a shocking average of £2,800 a year.

NOTES

Full text of the letter to Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem, also copied to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Chair of the Commons BEIS Committee:

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition would like to thank you for your appearance at the Commons BEIS Committee which sparked the financial support outlined by the Chancellor on 26 May 2022.

With a new political will to address the challenge of the millions of homes in fuel poverty, we would also request that Ofgem reviews the areas where the regulator could better support households across the country.

First, we would urge you to abandon plans for a quarterly price cap and instead move to a three-times a year (at most) model. This would ensure more flexibility in the cap, but also mitigate a devastating January price increase, as predicted by Cornwall Insight, in the middle of winter.

Second, we need to see reform of the price cap itself – especially so that it does more to help those on pre-payment meters and is extended to cover people off-gas and on heat networks.

More broadly, we also need to see Ofgem lead the way to ensure better support for vulnerable customers, including a package of additional support from suppliers for this winter.

This support should be similar in scope to that introduced during the pandemic, but enhanced in its ambition given the numbers of people expected to be in fuel poverty this winter. We would also welcome Ofgem’s views on how it can ensure no-one is disconnected this winter or abandoned by their supplier.

We also need urgent reform of the regressive and punitive standing charges regime that penalises the most vulnerable. These charges should be reduced. In addition, customers should no longer be penalised for the failures in the energy market, which we will highlight as an issue to the Treasury.

Finally, in the longer-term we would request that Ofgem reviews the operation of the price cap and works with consumer groups to set out reforms to the market that would offer more support to those in fuel poverty. This could include the introduction of a price ceiling (i.e. a “super cap” set at current levels over which consumers will not have to pay for fair usage) and the introduction of a social tariff or “energy for all allowance.”

We would welcome the opportunity to speak to you about these issues at a future meeting of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

Energy saving measures could save billions

An expert report has revealed how investing now in energy saving solutions could save the UK Government hundreds of billions in ‘sticking plaster’ solutions this decade.

Experts calculate that the UK government has spent £37bn this year to stand still on soaring costs of living, without meaningful investment in solutions which could permanently reduce bills. With estimates that fossil fuel prices will remain at an unprecedented level until at least 2030, E3G is calling for long-term energy saving solutions to save the Treasury from needing to spend hundreds of billions in ‘sticking plaster’ solutions.

Households living in the least efficient homes will pay around £916 more per year on energy bills when the energy price cap rises to £2,800. If everyone living in homes below Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C were improved to EPC C today, the aggregate saving would be £10.6bn each year.

Independent climate and energy think tank E3G has set out a package of measures to make rapid near-term progress, saving families an average of between £450 – over £1,000 per year.

As well as energy efficiency measures in homes, key measures suggested also include launching an Olympic-style skills and training programme for the retrofit supply chain and making independent energy and retrofit advice readily available to people across the country to share what help is available.

Juliet Phillips, Senior Policy Advisor at E3G and lead author of the report says:

With fossil fuel prices expected to remain sky high until at least 2030, the government must decide whether it wants to go on spending £37bn per year just to stand still – or to invest now in permanent solutions for lower bills, which will pay off multiple times over in the years ahead. Until the structural drivers of the cost of living crisis are addressed, including the cold and leaky nature of our housing, the government could be left spending tens of billions on emergency financial support packages each year.

Stew Horne, head of policy at Energy Saving Trust said:

E3G’s latest report highlights the steps the UK Government should take if it is to help people across the country reduce household energy usage and bills for the long-term. Time is ticking away to make the much-needed improvements to the energy efficiency of UK homes that UK government has committed to this decade. Energy Saving Trust particularly welcomes the report’s proposals for bespoke advice and support for consumers as this will play a vital role in helping make the changes that will permanently reduce the energy required to heat their homes and keep energy costs down.

Coalition responds to Chancellor’s cost of living crisis statement

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members have been responding to today’s announcement by the Government that additional support will be made available following reports of record energy price rises.

A spokesperson for End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

“The Government has agreed in principle that a Windfall Tax is vital and the Chancellor has clearly listened to concerns that support for those in fuel poverty needs to be both widespread, but also focussed on the most vulnerable groups.

“But by October, energy bills will have increased by over £1,500 in a year. So while the measures announced today will take the sting out the tail of recent increases, the underlying problem of millions of households in fuel poverty remains.

“People in fuel poverty will need further reassurance that support will be there in the medium-term and we need full investment in a Great Homes Upgrade to improve the energy efficiency of homes as a national priority.”

Ami McCarthy, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said:

“This windfall tax will serve only as a sticking plaster. While providing support to millions struggling with sky-high energy bills is 100% the right thing to do, by only skimming the top 25% off oil and gas company profits Sunak has missed a huge opportunity to tackle the root cause of the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis together.

“Taxing the full profits at 70% would have more than doubled the cash available. This could have been used to provide short-term relief to households, as well as upgrades to homes to ensure they use and waste less energy, and keep bills low for years to come.

“Instead of driving money into clean energy solutions, Sunak has used this announcement to encourage oil and gas company investments. Yet the current cost-of-living crisis is mostly a result of gas price rises – hard-up families shouldn’t have to wait for the Prime Minister and Chancellor to deliver cheaper and cleaner energy to help with their bills.”

National Energy Action commented:

“By October the average energy bill was predicted to more than double from last year. This vast increase would have pushed millions of households into destitution, turning to desperate measures to stay warm at home. Without additional support, we were facing an utterly disastrous winter. The Chancellor’s new package today averts the darkest of outcomes, offering some hope to the millions of fuel poor households across the UK.

“Millions will still be struggling and the energy crisis is far from over, but a large, more targeted intervention is what was needed ahead of winter.

“The Government urgently needs to plan for energy prices to remain high for the longer term. This must include a social tariff, setting an affordable price of energy for the poorest households. And there must be additional effort into making the homes of fuel poor households more energy efficient, making them more resilient to the sort of price shock that they are currently shouldering.”

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said:

“The Chancellor has importantly acknowledged that life costs more if you are disabled.

“This package is a significant short-term boost to disabled people whose backs are against the wall.

“But inflation and energy prices are still running riot, and disabled people are much more likely to live in poverty.

“Even before the cost of living crisis, disabled people were facing extra costs of almost £600 a month. Many struggling with sky-high bills from needing more energy to charge vital equipment, or extra heating to stay warm.

“Our Disability Energy Support Service has been inundated by disabled people in crisis and nowhere else to turn.

“The Chancellor needs to continue to use the benefit system in the long term to target support at disabled people where it’s needed most. The Government must also make sure that no disabled people fall through the gaps in receiving the support needed to get through this winter and beyond.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

“Age UK is pleased and relieved that the Government has recognised the extreme risks soaring inflation pose to the health and welfare of pensioners, particularly those on low incomes, and has announced a package of measures today with the aim of mitigating them. With prices continuing to go up for everything they buy, life is certainly not going to be easy for many older people over the next few months, but the extra support the Chancellor is bringing forward will make a difference and will protect most from the worst of the unprecedented surge in the cost of living they face.

“Targeting most of the support on offer to pensioners who receive means-tested benefits, that is Pension Credit, was undoubtedly the right thing to do, but as a result it is more important than ever that every older person who qualifies receives their due. We know that some three quarters of a million are missing out at the moment, so we urge anyone who thinks they may be eligible to put in a claim without delay.  If they act quickly, it is possible they may be eligible for some of the additional financial help that is now available, and this could be life-changing for them.

“No one knows what will happen to prices later in the year and it may well be that the Government will need to go further and do more in the autumn Budget, if inflation goes on ratcheting up. At Age UK we will be tracking the experiences of older people, especially those on low incomes, as the months go by.  We will also continue to campaign with others for more investment in energy efficiency and for the reintroduction of a social energy tariff since, in the longer term, these would help pensioners to keep on top of their energy bills and support progress towards our zero carbon targets.

“It is absolutely crucial for older people that the triple lock kicks in again next year, so it was important that the Chancellor restated his commitment to this during his speech. Age UK will hold him to his word.”

Ed Matthew from E3G commented:

“The increased support for households this winter is welcome but the Chancellor has failed to fix the underlying crisis. The UK has the worst insulated homes in western Europe. He could halve household energy demand through efficiency measures alone, but it won’t happen unless he provides the financial support needed. The windfall tax should have been used in part to do that. It’s a missed opportunity and keeps citizens reliant on gas. We will all pay the price for this missed opportunity.”

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action commented:

“Champagne corks will be popping in the  boardrooms of North Sea oil and gas extractors. While in millions of homes, people on low incomes may risk the expense of turning on the kettle and splurging on a cup of tea.

“In the boardrooms they won’t fail to notice that the dreaded, long-delayed windfall tax will remove only £5bn of their £13bn windfall profits.  And even at its temporary peak, UK tax will be lower than the 70% norm for other countries.

“Continuing the UK’s strong record of give-aways to fossil fuel polluters, these giant corporations will get 90p back in tax relief for every pound they invest.  And that investment must go into oil and gas – four times more expensive than wind and solar energy, and costing us all even more than that, through pollution of the air, the sea and the climate.  Rishi Sunak says he doesn’t want to “burden future generations”.  But subsidising fossil fuels may mean they have no future at all.

“Back in the kitchen, some of the sums in the Chancellor’s ‘support’ package will provide much needed relief. But it is hard to feel grateful.  Even the maximum support he has offered to the poorest will not make up the increase in fuel bills this year, let alone the rising cost of food and rents. The missing £8 billion from windfall profits could have done so much to relieve the pain of a decade of cuts, rising prices, overwork, and cold, uninsulated homes!”

Energy bills crisis demands Emergency Budget

Campaigners have urged the Government to deliver an emergency budget to address the cost of living crisis facing the country.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has made the call as Ofgem projections firmed up the nightmare scenario of further energy bill rises this winter. [1]

With the number of homes in fuel poverty expected to surge to 43% by this winter, campaigners have warned only an emergency budget will solve the crisis gripping the country. [2]

A household that was paying GBP1,000 for their energy bills in October 2020 could soon be paying almost three-times that. And with inflationary pressures also affecting food prices, the outlook is bleak.

If fuel poverty levels hit the limits predicted, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates that thousands of additional winter deaths will take place due to cold homes in 2022/23 – mainly among the elderly and vulnerable. [3]

To avoid the predicted disaster, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, has called on the Chancellor to deliver an emergency budget consisting of:

  • A 50% Windfall Tax on all Energy Production Firms Profits yielding revenue well in excess of GBP20bn, this may have to be levied every year until the Price Cap returns to a more affordable rate or the market is reformed. [4]
  • An annual Anti-Fuel Poverty Payment (AFPP) of GBP1,800 to the lowest income households, including those newly facing fuel poverty this winter. [5]
  • A one off £20,000 investment in each of the fuel poor households in the UK that are dependent on oil, LPG or coal for heating to improve their homes so they are well insulated and using a cheaper, less-polluting fuel – heat pump or new night storage heaters.
  • In future years, any excess revenue generated by the Windfall Tax could raise additional funding for the Emergency Hardship Funds available to local authorities and charitable organisations working with vulnerable groups to deploy.

In addition to the Windfall Tax, the Government must urgently fulfil the promises made in its 2019 Conservative party election manifesto that would help lower energy bills by investing £9.2bn in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals in England, including £2.5bn for the Home Upgrade Grant Scheme. To date, less than half of the Government’s 2019 manifesto pledges on fuel poverty have been committed. 

The Coalition has also urged BEIS to launch a fundamental review of the UK Energy Market to address concerns which will persist even after the emergency financial measures suggested. This review should consider alternative proposals put forward by campaigners such as the idea of “social tariffs” or a state-funded energy allowance for all.

For example, the average unit of gas has been sold up to 22 times before it gets to customers’ meters, meaning several private firms all making fuel bills that much higher. Consumers have also been required to bail out the costs of 31 companies going bankrupt as a result of Ofgem’s inadequate regulation. [6]

Dr Brenda Boardman, Emeritus Fellow, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, commented:

The injustice of it all is just incredible. We desperately need an energy market that is designed around the needs of the consumers, not the needs of the suppliers. This is, after all, a basic necessity, that is ultimately about life and death, as well as comfort, good health and child development.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition added:

Previous measures implemented by the Government to tackle fuel poverty do not scratch the surface and the majority of the help has gone to all households, not necessarily those in fuel poverty specifically. Significant sums have also been spent on the petrol and diesel rebate, which goes to better-off households, who own cars and drive the most.

Only an emergency budget will ensure the measures can be introduced to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action commented:

With over 40% of UK households in or heading for fuel poverty, we need more than pitiful handouts to prevent a widespread health crisis, miserable children, and more deaths. The energy system should be turned on its head to ensure we pay less per unit if we use less energy – not more. Ofgem has loaded the costs of failing suppliers onto the standing charge – the part of the bill we  can’t escape no matter how much we cut down. The injustice of this charge must be urgently reversed, as a first step towards #EnergyForAll. Energy security begins at home.

William Baker from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty (STEP) commented:

We are facing a humanitarian crisis this winter unless the Government takes immediate action to ensure low income households can afford their fuel. It must also embark on an ambitious programme to reduce energy demand by insulating our homes; such a programme will reduce fuel poverty, improve energy security, reduce pressure on our health services and give a much needed boost to the economy.  

Tamara Sandoul from Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) commented:

Another big rise in the cost of energy will have serious consequences for people’s health and wellbeing. Living in cold homes will hit the most vulnerable hardest – the elderly, those on low incomes, children and those with existing health conditions. The Government needs to act quickly to protect the most vulnerable in our society from the effects of this unprecedented rise in the cost of energy and the cost of living.

Jo Gilbert from CUBES (Customer Utility Bills Expertly Serviced) commented:

When thousands of death’s were predicted due to the Covid-19 pandemic the government stepped in and took measures to safeguard the vulnerable. We are now in a very real ‘Poverty Pandemic’ and thousands of people will freeze and die from cold related illness. The government must take immediate action, as they did with covid-19 to prevent this humanitarian crisis from emerging more than it already has.

Jacky Peacock, Head of Policy at Advice for Renters commented,

The 450,000 private renters who emerged from the pandemic with arrears of rent. now face unaffordable fuel bills.  Without decisive action now, we will see an explosion of evictions and homelessness with a cost to the public purse in excess of the measures to reduce fuel poverty being proposed by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] Ofgem has suggested that the price rise will be an additional GBP829, taking the price cap to GBP2800 – an additional increase in bills of 42%.

[2] The rise in bills will result in an additional number of households in fuel poverty. According to Ofgem across the UK 12m households will be in fuel poverty this winter, 43% of the 28.1m households.

[3] Overall the End Fuel Poverty Coalition and National Energy Action estimate that based on a five year average, between 8,000 to 10,000 people across the United Kingdom die prematurely during the winter due to the impact of cold homes.  This is based on World Health Organisation modelling that at least 30% of Excess Winter Deaths are attributable to a cold home.

In 2019 there were 3.1m households in fuel poverty in England (official Government figures) and the average winter deaths mid-point would have been 9,000 (i.e. 0.3% of fuel poor homes are likely to have registered a “excess winter death”). If the numbers of fuel poor increase to the levels predicted, so could the numbers of people who die as a result of cold homes. If the figures of excess winter deaths remained proportionate to the levels of people in fuel poverty, this could see 22,500 excess winter deaths, pro rata. However, this assumption will need to be tested and checked against official figures in winter 2022/23 so is only for illustrative purposes.

[4] GBP20bn would be raised from Shell and BP alone, based solely on their 2020-21 profits. In the last quarter, their profits were even higher.

[5] GBP1800 based on the difference between the Ofgem prediction for winter 2022/23 and GBP1,000 cap which was more manageable for those in fuel poverty. This could be adjusted every year. Alternative measures have been suggested by other campaigners, such as the reversal of Universal Credit cuts or expansion of rebate schemes.

[6] “22 times” churn: https://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/European-traded-gas-hubs-an-updated-analysis-on-liquidity-maturity-and-barriers-to-market-integration-OIES-Energy-Insight.pdf (table 4, p11). Experts predict this number may have fallen slightly since the table was compiled, but the principles of the market remain.

“31 suppliers”: https://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/energy/failed-uk-energy-suppliers-update/

Coalition condemns utterly devastating price rises

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, has commented on Ofgem’s estimates that the price cap will increase to £2,800 from 1 October 2022 and predictions that 12m households could be in fuel poverty across the UK this winter.

This news will be utterly devastating for millions of homes currently in fuel poverty – and for millions more households who will now spend this winter struggling to keep themselves warm.

Fuel poverty becomes a public health emergency in winter and the hidden cost of the UK Government’s continued inaction will be felt in a collapse in the mental health of those in fuel poverty, increased pressure on the NHS from those with health conditions affected by damp properties and excess winter deaths caused by cold homes.

Unless the Government acts now, it will have blood on its hands this winter.

The Government must urgently impose a windfall tax on energy production firms to help those most in need, invest in a Great Homes Upgrade to improve energy efficiency of buildings and deliver a renewable-led secure energy infrastructure.

James Taylor, Executive Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope which are members of the Coalition, said:

The impact of the price cap rising by £1,500 in a year will be horrific. Many disabled people are already forced to commit a large amount of their income to energy costs.

Disabled people often rely on energy intensive equipment like electric wheelchairs, electric hoists, or monitors.

We’ve heard from disabled people who must choose between charging vital equipment and heating their home. Others are going without food so that their children can eat.

Our Disability Energy Support service has been inundated by disabled people in crisis with nowhere else to turn.

Disabled people cannot wait any longer for Government intervention. We need to see benefits rise in line with inflation, disabled people included in any expansion of the Warm Home Discount and a further increase in funding to the Household Support Fund.

In comments on Twitter, National Energy Action also described the proposed increases as catastrophic.

Government urged to take action to help councils tackle fuel poverty

Ahead of local elections in May 2022, the Government has been urged to implement an action plan to help local authorities take action on fuel poverty.

The action plan, developed by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, includes legislation to prevent energy firms from charging more than the lowest tariff for those on pre-payment meters and the introduction of a Windfall Tax on fossil fuel firms’ profits.

In addition to the central Government action plan, candidates standing for election to local authorities across England have also been urged to take action to end fuel poverty.

In a pledge, co-ordinated by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, councillors and council candidates can pledge their support for ending fuel poverty. The pledge commits candidates to campaign for a range of measures – all of which can be implemented by local authorities – that will help end fuel poverty.

Council candidates can sign up to the pledge online: https://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk/end-fuel-poverty-councillor-pledge/ 

Roni Marsh, Money Advice Team Leader, South West London Law Centres, commented:

The government’s annual fuel poverty figures show that the measures taken to address fuel poverty had made only minimal impact by 2020, and of course we know that the situation has become much much worse since then. We not only have clients choosing between heating their homes or eating, they also have to think twice about using energy to heat their food. Urgent action is needed to help those households in fuel poverty.

 William Baker, from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty (STEP), added:

The single largest rise in fuel bills for over 30 years will lead many people in fuel poverty to turn to their local councils for help.

Councils should do everything in their powers to cushion the shock, whether that is installing improved heating and insulation, providing financial support or enforcing private rental regulations.

However, the government must provide councils with the resources to meet the envisaged rise in demand for council services, as well as take action to correct its own woefully inadequate response to the fuel price crisis.

Chaitanya Kumar, Head of Environment at The New Economics Foundation, said: 

People’s bills are going through the roof, and the scourge of fuel poverty is hitting more and more households who just want to keep warm.

It’s vital that the government gives local authorities the resources they need to upgrade homes and immediately protect those on the sharp end of the cost of living crisis.

 

Emma Lewins, from Students Organising for Sustainability UK, added: 

Students were already at a high risk of falling into fuel poverty due to limited knowledge and experience of how to navigate the energy system, poor quality student housing and lower incomes.

With the cost-of-living scandal, this is only getting worse.

Due to the student population’s transient nature, it is unlikely that the existing support will serve students. We need the Government to step up and take urgent action to respond to the fuel price crisis.

The Westminster Government Council Support Action Plan

To support Councils in helping people in fuel poverty, the Westminster Government must:

  • Provide a stable and sustainable approach to funding for home upgrades and move away from short-term funding cycles.
  • Legislate to prevent energy firms from charging more than the lowest tariff for those on pre-payment meters.
  • Enable tenants to use Rent Repayment Orders to reclaim money from landlords in compensation for living in the worst properties for fuel poverty.
  • Launch a public information campaign on landlords’ obligations and tenants’ rights on energy efficiency.
  • Support Local Authorities to carry out urgent stock assessments across public and private housing and put in place strategies for improving all housing to a minimum EPC C standard within their areas by 2030 for rented housing and 2035 for owner occupier housing.
  • Introduce a Windfall Tax on profits of fossil fuel firms to ensure enough money is raised to help those most in need.

The End Fuel Poverty Councillor Pledge

As a councillor, I pledge to do all I can to end the scourge of fuel poverty. I will campaign for:

  • Improving energy efficiency of Council / housing association housing stock
  • Better enforcement of existing regulations on energy efficiency and property standards in the private rented sector
  • Improving private tenants’ rights
  • Providing information advice and guidance on energy efficiency and benefits to those most at risk of fuel poverty
  • The use of central government energy scheme grants to help those most at risk
  • Bring forward the End Fuel Poverty motion to a Council meeting in 2022
  • Urge the Westminster Government to implement the End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s Local Authority Fuel Poverty Action Plan.

Council candidates can sign up to the pledge online: https://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk/end-fuel-poverty-councillor-pledge/ 

Fuel poverty in Chancellor’s own constituency hits new high

An exclusive report in Richmondshire Today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s local paper, has set out how fuel poverty in the rural constituency is higher than in parts of London.

Data projections from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition found that over 6.3m households (27% of homes in England) woke up in fuel poverty on 1 April 2022, but some areas of the country suffered more than others.

On the Chancellor’s home turf, 14,000 households in his constituency of Richmond (Yorks) will be in fuel poverty (29.7%).

The numbers in wider Richmondshire are also among the worst in rural England (32.3%). By comparison, around a third of households in market town Kings Lynn and rural West Norfolk will be in fuel poverty (33.8%), as will similar numbers in North East Lincolnshire (33.2%), Herefordshire (32.9%) and Shropshire (32.8%).

Indeed, Richmondshire has similar levels of fuel poverty as Middlesborough and higher levels than places such as Salford and parts of London, such as Wandsworth.

Reports in the Daily Telegraph suggest that the barrier to implementing measures to tackle fuel poverty is the Richmond (Yorks) MP, Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

A spokesperson from from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

The Government has talked about this for long enough, but fails to match words with action. That even the suffering on the Chancellor’s own door step is failing to make him act sends a very worrying message to the constituents who are facing stark choices in the months ahead.

We need to see urgent help for households in fuel poverty now combined with a long-term plan to improve energy efficiency of our homes and investment in a sustainable, renewable-led, energy mix.

Meanwhile, the Government’s energy security strategy has been widely criticised by End Fuel Poverty Coalition members for not doing enough to support increased energy efficiency measures in the nation’s homes.

Juliet Phillips, from E3G, commented:

The Energy Security Strategy has failed to deliver for British families facing a cost-of-living crisis and done little to support a rapid shift from Russian energy imports.

With estimates that one in three households could be left in fuel poverty this autumn, the focus should have been on rapid measures to boost energy security at home.

However, the Prime Minister has let the Chancellor block any solutions which could have delivered tangible results this year.

By instead emphasising on technologies which won’t deliver until far into the future, the government has both failed to meet the moment, and failed to read the mood of the nation.

UNISON national energy officer Matthew Lay said:

To call this a strategy is a complete misnomer.

It does nothing to ease the pain people are feeling now, nor to bring Britain closer to meeting its net zero targets. It’s a smokescreen covering the mistakes of the past that have left us so dangerously reliant on fossil fuels.

Lack of detail on how any changes will be funded is worryingly familiar. Already-squeezed consumers will likely have to fork out to make up for years of energy mismanagement.

It’s totally unforgivable to have no plan for insulating Britain’s leaky housing stock, which would cut bills now and ease some of the pain being felt by millions.

Image: Shutterstock

Major home insulation programme would drastically slash bills

The energy bills of almost eight million households could be slashed by as much as 40% if the government prioritises retrofitting the country’s draughty, heat-leaking homes, according to new predictions.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members, Friends of the Earth, predict cavity wall insulation can reduce energy consumption by up to 20%, as can loft insulation.

For an average dual fuel household, the savings that could be made are around £750 a year.

New analysis by the environmental campaign group has identified the areas of the country that would most benefit from a massive programme of free loft and cavity wall insulation, broken down by both local authority area and parliamentary constituency.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to implement this policy as part of its upcoming energy review.

The top five local authority areas where most homes could see vast improvements in energy efficiency through the rollout of loft insulation are Birmingham, Leeds, Cornwall, Bradford, and Buckinghamshire.

Similarly, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Buckinghamshire are among the top five areas where homes would most benefit from cavity wall insulation, as well as Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

The average household will see energy costs rise by £693 this year, which is expected to climb higher still when the energy regulator re-evaluates the price cap again later this year.

Estimates suggest that one in four households will be plunged into fuel poverty from today as the initial price hike comes into effect. In some parts of the country, this will rise to more than 40% of households.

However, there are 5.7 million homes across the country where loft insulation could help households make significant cost savings, and a further 5.2 million where cavity wall insulation would have a similar effect.

The group has found that the majority (approximately 60%) of homes which could see lower bills through a government energy efficiency programme are in areas where household incomes are below the national average.

Areas with the highest levels of poverty are also twice as likely to have homes requiring better insulation than areas with the highest concentration of wealth, say campaigners.

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said:

We know that our bills would already be significantly lower had the government not scrapped plans to make UK homes more energy efficient back in 2013. While the government can’t turn back time, it can choose to boost energy efficiency to reduce energy bills now and end the UK’s dependency on imported gas.

A free loft and cavity wall insulation programme, targeted at areas with high levels of fuel poverty, can be rolled out quickly by councils and will make a huge difference for millions of people ahead of next winter. The bonus is that this will also cut carbon emissions.

This programme can and should be funded by a Windfall Tax on profiteering fossil fuel companies. The government must commit to this as part of its upcoming Energy Security Strategy.

Sana Yusuf, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

Sky-rocketing energy costs resulting from today’s price rise have many households wondering how they’ll afford to make ends meet, but without much-needed government intervention the number of people facing extreme financial hardship is shockingly high.

Priority number one has to be protecting our communities from this and future price shocks. It’s crystal clear that our system is broken, and it’s because of the UK’s reliance on highly volatile gas that energy prices have spiralled well out of control.

Extracting more fossil fuels simply isn’t the answer, not even in the short-term, because new developments take decades to become operational, will do nothing to help people struggling now, and will fuel climate breakdown which is already harming millions across the globe.

Clearly, the quickest, cleanest, long-term solutions are already before us. Boosting energy efficiency is a crucial place to start, alongside an ambitious plan to scale up the country’s renewable energy capacity.