Fuel poverty statistics reveal households hit hard by energy bills crisis

New data published by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has revealed that a surge in the numbers of households spending more than 10% of their income on energy in England.

The number of households who are required to spend more than 10% of their income after housing costs on domestic energy has risen to 36.4% of households (8.9 million households) up from 27.4% in 2022 (6.7 million).

Meanwhile, the average fuel poverty gap (which measures the additional money a household would need to be lifted out of fuel poverty) has increased by 66% between 2020 and 2023 in real terms, due to rising energy prices.

E3G UK energy lead, Juliet Phillips, explained that for those already in fuel poverty, things have got significantly harder:

“It is shameful that in a country as wealthy as England, so many households cannot afford to heat their homes to a healthy and comfortable level. New statistics show that no progress has been made in reducing fuel poverty rates in the past year, and that for those struggling to pay their energy bills, things have gotten a lot worst.

“We have seen a concerning inertia from the government over the last year on action to upgrade homes. This included a U-turn on the planned increase in energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector, and a significant under-delivery of the retrofit schemes designed to alleviate fuel poverty.

“If the UK is to have any chance of meeting its statutory target to end fuel poverty by 2030, a long-term plan is needed to rebuild confidence in supply chains: backed by investment and regulations to drive action to deliver warmer homes across the country.”

The statistics also show that households in the private rented sector are at the highest risk of fuel poverty. This follows Rishi Sunak’s U-turn on the planned uplift to minimum efficiency standards in the sector last year.

Jonathan Bean, spokesperson for Fuel Poverty Action, commented:

“Fuel poverty rates are highest in private rentals so the Government’s lack of commitment to improved standards will continue to harm millions.

“In addition, electric-only homes have the highest fuel poverty rates due to the four times higher price of electricity compared to gas, due to our rigged energy market which the Government and Ofgem have failed to reform.

“It is time to admit Government and Ofgem policies have completely failed, and a more radical solution to fuel poverty is needed – Energy For All.  This would eradicate fuel poverty now, rather than allowing millions to suffer in cold damp homes for another decade.”

The statistics show that there were an estimated 13.0 per cent of households (3.17 million) in fuel poverty in England under Ministers’ preferred measure of fuel poverty, known as the Low Income Low Energy Efficiency (LILEE) metric in 2023. This number is effectively unchanged from 13.1 per cent in 2022 (3.18 million).

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition explained the limitations of this metric:

“Even these terrible figures don’t paint the true picture of the suffering in households across the UK.

“They exclude millions of homes in certain energy performance categories, fail to take into account soaring energy costs and also don’t include many people who actually get a Warm Home Discount to help with their bills.

“The reality is that household energy debt is at record levels, millions of people are living in cold damp homes and children are suffering in mouldy conditions.

“The wider impact of high energy bills is also clear to see with households having to cut back on spending so much that the UK has now entered a recession.”

Nearly 1 in five households in the West Midlands are classed as fuel poor. Meanwhile, in the South West, it would take an extra £634 to lift homes out of fuel poverty.

The latest National Energy Action (NEA) Fuel Poverty Monitor, developed with Energy Action Scotland and Gemserv, highlighted over 3 million UK households could be left in fuel poverty by the end of the decade, despite a legal requirement for no households in England to be living in fuel poverty by 2030.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of National Energy Action, added:

“At this rate, the government will miss its 2030 legal fuel poverty target by a country mile and millions will be stuck unable to afford to keep their homes and their families warm and well.”

New polling by YouGov for NEA shows that three in 10 (30%) GB adults say their household has found it difficult to afford to pay their energy bills in the past three months.

This has driven many to drastic ‘not coping strategies’ with 59% of British adults saying they had turned their thermostat down lower than they wanted, while 52% turned their heating off, even though it was cold inside the house.

Fuel poverty levels set to rocket as petition passes 100,000 mark

Over 12 million households (42%) across the UK face fuel poverty this winter, according to predictions from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

The estimates take into account support announced by the Government so far and are historically reflective of the definitions of fuel poverty used in official statistics.

From the price cap rise on 1 October, the estimates show that 21 million people in around 9 million homes (32%) will be affected this winter. The figures are then set to grow to around 28 million people in 12 million UK households (42%) from January 2023 unless urgent action is taken by the Government.

The figures come as over 110,000 people have already signed the Warm This Winter petition calling for immediate government action.

The petition was only launched last Friday as the Ofgem price cap for this winter was confirmed. The Warm this Winter campaign demands that the government provides more emergency money for people this winter, funding to help everyone cut their bills with better insulation, and rapidly moves the country away from expensive gas and onto cheaper, renewable energy.

The figures come as a new report by University College London’s Institute of Health Equity (IHE) predicts “a humanitarian crisis’ for children stuck in cold homes and reveals the public health crisis fuel poverty will cause.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition commented:

The IHE report backs up our worst fears about just how devastating the winter energy bills crisis will be.

The public is clamouring to be kept Warm this Winter and we need to see more emergency money for people this winter, funding to help everyone cut their bills with better insulation, and a rapid move away from expensive gas and onto cheaper, renewable energy.

Without urgent Government action, the impact of rising levels of fuel poverty on our nation will be profound and devastating.

Meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation has warned that the next prime minister’s time in office looks set to be dominated by the “terrifying” prospect of the biggest squeeze in living standards for a century.

Tessa Khan, Director of Uplift, which is part of the Warm This Winter campaign, said:

While the leadership candidates fall back on the failed fossil fuel solutions of the past, the public are demanding fresh thinking.

The thousands of people who have signed the Warm This Winter petition are proof that the public want both short term and long term solutions to the fuel poverty crisis.

We need to reject expensive, dirty, fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy and improved energy efficiency of buildings, alongside immediate financial support this winter.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action, commented:

Energy producers and suppliers are making record profits from putting up prices to a level that millions will struggle to pay.

The result will be many thousands of deaths in cold damp homes, widespread health crises, cold and hungry children unable to play or do homework, and older people who can’t be discharged from hospital because their homes are not fit to live in.

The present pricing framework is upside down: the poorest customers pay the highest prices. Our Energy For All proposal would reverse this: each household will receive enough energy to cover its basic needs, paid for by higher prices for profligate energy use, and reversing the flow of taxpayers money to fossil fuel profiteers.

The spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition added:

These predictions represent figures we may expect to go on to see reported in official statistics.

The households affected in these numbers all have a real risk of making daily economic sacrifices that compromise their standard of living, with many of them at risk of health complications caused by living in a cold damp home.


Methodology, assumptions and definitions available at https://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk/price-cap-methodology/.

Regional figures related to this measure will be published in September 2022. Millions more are also set to suffer based on more general measures of fuel poverty and fuel stress used by some academics and campaigners. The latest estimates from the University of York show that on a measure of 10% of income being spent on energy bills the numbers are 54% of households from October rising to 78% of households in January 2023. However, this is not the definition used by the different UK governments.

9,000 energy crisis hotspots in England and Wales revealed

The neighbourhoods that are being worst impacted by soaring energy prices have been identified for the first time as part of new research by Friends of the Earth.

The environmental group has found that there are almost 9,000 energy crisis hotspots across England and Wales where communities are at greatest risk of serious financial hardship as a result of unaffordable energy costs.

Birmingham (1st), Bradford (2nd), Cornwall (3rd), Sandwell (4th), County Durham and Enfield (joint 5th) rank highest among 30 local authority areas with the most energy crisis hotspots. Birmingham and Bradford also top a list of areas with the most homes that are missing basic insulation measures.

A full list of energy crisis hotspots by local authority area is available here.

Energy crisis hotspots are neighbourhoods where energy use is high and typical household income is below the national average. In many cases, energy use is high in these neighbourhoods because homes are poorly insulated, meaning they require more energy to remain warm.

The latest analysis has found that these at-risk neighbourhoods are not only home to a higher proportion of children than other areas, but that people of colour are also twice as likely to live in them, highlighting the disparities that exist across local areas.

The average annual energy bill is currently more than 50% higher than it was six months ago. This increase is already devastating millions of households across the country.

Yet costs are expected to climb higher still later this week when the new energy price cap is announced by the regulator Ofgem. The latest forecasts predict that annual energy costs will exceed £3,500 for the average household come October, rising to £4,200 by January. Experts Cornwall Insights predict that prices will remain high throughout 2023 and even beyond.

Compounded by other rising living costs, such as rent – which has increased by an average of 11% this year – food and fuel costs, millions more are at risk of being plunged into financially unstable positions. Recent estimates predict that one in three households will be living in fuel poverty this October unless the government meaningfully intervenes.

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

There’s no downplaying how catastrophic this and following winters will be for millions of people if energy bills rise as high as they’re predicted to, unless the government meaningfully intervenes. Instead of woeful and poorly targeted cash handouts, or the promise of tax cuts that won’t help those who need it the most, the government must beef up its package of emergency financial support by channelling money to those least able to pay their energy bills.

And while vital, this is only a short-term solution. The highest priority of all is fixing the UK’s leaky, inefficient housing stock, otherwise cash handouts will be required year on year. By rolling out a free programme of street-by-street energy efficiency measures, prioritising the most in-need neighbourhoods, we can help to bring bills down quickly, make homes warmer and slash Earth-warming emissions at the same time.

A new report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) on behalf of Friends of the Earth shows how an emergency energy efficiency scheme for England and Wales could be delivered by local authorities over the coming months, starting with the neighbourhoods most in need, to protect people from soaring bills before this winter and beyond.

It reveals that households could make savings of between £490 and £720 each year on their bills through the rapid roll-out of a council-led, street-by-street programme of insulation and other energy saving measures. These estimates were made before the most recent energy price cap forecasts were given, making the potential savings even higher.

That’s why in England, Friends of the Earth is calling on the candidates vying to be the next Prime Minister to commit to a rapid programme of free, council-led street-by-street loft and cavity wall insulation and basic energy efficiency measures.

And in Wales, the group is urging the Welsh government to urgently roll out its Warm Homes Programme, prioritising the most in-need households and neighbourhoods for insulation.

Estimates by Friends of the Earth put total costs for an England and Wales scheme in the region of £15 billion, which is three times lower than what households could save over a ten year period as identified in the NEF report.

Friends of the Earth believes the government could begin to roll out such a scheme out using the money raised through its Windfall Levy, which is expected to raise around £5bn. A much tougher windfall tax, without loopholes that allow fossil fuel firms to pay a much lower rate, could make this funding pot go even further.

The group is also urging the Conservative leadership candidates to guarantee better emergency financial support for those struggling most if elected, which is desperately needed to stop people going cold this winter. And while a vital lifeline, this can only be a temporary fix. The energy crisis will continue to impact lives for years to come unless steps are taken to reduce the amount of energy lost from our heat-leaking homes.

Tory leadership hopefuls face fuel poverty crisis in constituencies

New estimates, first reported in the i Paper, have revealed the impact of the energy bills crisis on the constituents of the Tory leadership contenders.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has calculated that almost 60,000 households will be in fuel poverty in these four seats alone from 1 October 2022 based on current energy price cap estimates. 

Across England, the estimated total is around 7.7m households likely to face fuel poverty this winter (32%).

Across the four constituencies, residents of Liz Truss’ seat in South West Norfolk will be hit the hardest with almost 40% of homes plunged into fuel poverty – even after taking into account the current levels of support promised by the previous Chancellor.

In Rishi Sunak’s own seat, more than a third (37%) of households will be in fuel poverty this coming winter.

Without urgent action from the next Prime Minister, 28% of households in Kemi Badenoch’s seat and 26% of people in Penny Mordaunt’s constituency will also face fuel poverty.

Last week, a new campaign group was formed by some of Britain’s biggest charities, calling for the leadership contenders to promise urgent action to help people through the cost of living crisis.

The group wrote to all MPs standing in the contest to ask them to pledge to:

  • Provide financial support to people who without urgent action will be on the front-line of poverty this winter
  • Upgrade and insulate homes across the UK to bring down bills and prevent energy waste
  • Rapidly expand clean energy, which is now four times cheaper than gas, to urgently lower energy bills
  • Stop drilling new oil and gas fields so that we can escape our dependence on volatile fossil fuels.

None of the candidates have responded to the letters as yet (Tue 19 July 0700). 

Paul Dixon, Rural Evidence Manager for Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) said: 

This is a wake-up call for the Conservative leadership candidates and a reminder that fuel poverty is as much a problem in rural constituencies as it is in urban areas. The new Prime Minister must prioritise this issue and take decisive action to make sure everyone stays warm this winter.   

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action added: 

These demands are simple and urgent and there’s plenty of money available – including the millions of pounds being used to subsidise fossil fuel profiteers.  How can any of these candidates claim that saving lives is a priority for them, when they haven’t pledged action or even responded to this urgent letter?

Ian Preston, Director of Household Energy Services at the Centre for Sustainable Energy, commented:

We need to literally insulate people from the impact of future energy price increases! If we insulate our homes and buildings well, they’ll become more energy-efficient and it saves people money so they can buy other essential items. But more than this it also helps with our energy security by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

The figures show that drastically rising levels of fuel poverty are an issue right across the country, from the inner cities to our rural areas. Even in warmer weather, fuel poverty is a huge issue and this winter it will become devastating for millions.

Candidates in the leadership race have started to acknowledge the issue, but none have yet grasped the scale of the problem and the full range of actions needed to help people this winter.

Without a co-ordinated plan to end fuel poverty, one of the first acts of the new Prime Minister will be to preside over a miserable and dangerous winter for millions of households.

Tessa Khan, director of Uplift said:

What actions will they, as Prime Minister, take to help people through this winter and permanently lower energy bills? This is what people are interested in, not this parade.

Despite this, we’ve heard virtually nothing from the candidates on their plans to fix our broken energy system, whether that’s support for upgrading the efficiency of homes, which is the cheapest, quickest way of reducing bills, or what they will do to accelerate renewables, which is now the cheapest source of energy. Proposals to expand oil and gas, or fracking, are for the birds with high gas prices predicted to stay until the end of the decade.

With winter less than 3 months away, the candidates for PM need to set out credible plans now for what they will do to help people stay warm this winter and in winters to come, because bills won’t come down otherwise. Unaffordable heating bills will be a stark reality for millions for years and it demands a coherent, practical response now.”

Methodology used to calculate the statistics can be read here.

Historic government data doesn’t show true fuel poverty picture

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition commented on the latest release of historic fuel poverty data by the Government and its estimates of the levels of fuel poverty today:

Today’s 2020 historic fuel poverty data shows just how significant the Government’s failure to tackle fuel poverty has been.
The impact of measures taken pre-pandemic has barely shifted the dial – and we know very little has been done since 2020 to change the picture.
Indeed, the situation has become much, much worse.
Estimates from charities working in fuel poverty consistently predict that more than 6m households in England are now in fuel poverty – due in part to the energy bills crisis.
We need urgent help for households in fuel poverty now combined with a long-term plan to improve energy efficiency of our homes and a sustainable, renewable-led, energy mix.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s latest estimate is that 6.3m households (26.7%) in England will be in fuel poverty from 1 April 2022 as a result of recent price increases.

A briefing from National Energy Action sets out the background to the discrepancies between official data projections and the reality of fuel stress and energy poverty on the ground, while the charity’s analysis suggests the Government is 60 years behind its target to end fuel poverty.

Image: Shutterstock

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.


Call for action on the crisis of the winter death rate among penisoners

End Fuel Poverty Coalition Member, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), is calling upon the next government to respond to figures released today that show that excess winter mortality rates in 2018 to 2019 reached 23,200 in all English regions and Wales.

Excess winter mortality rates continue to be higher in females compared with males, with the figure highest in females aged 90 years and over. Respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, remain the leading cause of death.

Today’s figures are proof that older people struggle with poor housing, rising fuel costs, and a basic state pension that is inadequate and bottom of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) league table.

Pensioner poverty is increasing with 2 million pensioners living in poverty and one in three older people living in homes with inadequate heating or insulation making their homes more difficult to heat or keep warm.

Jan Shortt NPC General Secretary said:

The next government must make a commitment to end fuel poverty and ensure that energy companies do not abuse the implementation of the next cap on prices.

The key to tackling winter deaths is to make sure older people have got a well-insulated, warm home and the income needed to pay the fuel bills.

This is a basic requirement of what a decent society should do. We need the next government to roll out a more effective programme to insulate homes, building more suitable properties for older people and raising the winter fuel allowance in line with inflationary costs of energy.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition released a Manifesto setting out the changes the next government needs to make to end the scourge of fuel poverty.