Six facts about fuel poverty

January 9, 2015

As temperatures fall outside, turning the radiator up at home is a must. But for some, heating their home to a comfortable level is a luxury they cannot afford – sometimes by a significant margin. Policy Exchange’s new report presents a character profile of the millions of households that suffer from fuel poverty – we’ve shared some of the starkest facts here.

1. One in ten households in England is in fuel poverty…

The definition of a fuel poor household (used in England) is one which has above average required fuel costs, and would fall below the poverty line if they spent the amount required to heat their home to an adequate level.

2. …and the numbers are even worse in the rest of the UK

Fuel poverty is now defined differently in England from the rest of the UK. The last comparable data (from 2011, in the map below) shows that the rate of fuel poverty is significantly higher in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland than England.

3. The perception that fuel poverty is an issue only affecting pensioners is wrong

In fact, just under half the fuel poor households in England are in work…

…and 45% of fuel poor households are families with children.

4. Fuel poor households living in the most inefficient properties could need to spend as much as £1,700 a year more to heat their home to a comfortable level

The “fuel poverty gap” is a measure of the difference between how much a household currently spends on fuel (heating and power) and what they would need to spend to live in comfortable conditions. Households facing the highest fuel poverty gaps include those in homes with poor energy efficiency ratings, those in rural areas, older properties and properties not linked up to the gas grid.

5. The UK’s housing stock is woefully inefficient compared to other European countries

In the UK, around twice as many people describe their home as “leaky” as do in Scandinavia, and the number of people who say they cannot afford adequate heat in the UK is around three times higher than in Scandinavia, despite significantly lower temperatures there.

6. It will cost £1.2bn a year to meet the government target of upgrading all fuel poor homes in England to a Band C energy efficiency rating by 2030. But the government is currently allocating less than half of this to energy efficiency improvement in fuel poor homes.

Our report Warmer Homes sets out three ways to meet the fuel poverty spending challenge within existing budgets: target all energy efficiency subsidies on fuel poor households; make the winter fuel payment an opt-in system (currently only 10% of recipients are fuel poor); and classify household energy efficiency improvements as a ‘Top 40’ national infrastructure priority, allowing spending from the government’s £100bn infrastructure budget. You can read the full report here.

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