UK’s Fuel Poverty has increased over recent years, despite assurances it would be tackled. The CEO of the Energy & Utilities Alliance has recently come forward to announce that the UK is missing it’s targets to eradicate of fuel poverty.
According to Energy UK, a fuel poor household is defined as one which needs to spend more than 10% of its income on all fuel use and to heat its home to an adequate standard of warmth.
Usually, this is defined as 21°C in the living room and 18°C in other occupied rooms. The current definition of fuel poverty states that it is driven by three key factors: energy efficiency of the home; energy costs and household income. Despite constant assurances, the Committee on Climate Change compiled a report discussing the country’s increase from 3.3 million homes suffering from fuel poverty in 2007 to 4.5 million in 2013.
Most off target are the Scottish and Northern Irish administrations, despite vowing to eradicate their fuel poverty by 2016. Recently, it has been discovered that 39% of Scottish homes are in fuel poverty, and 42% of Northern Irish households are similarly suffering. The Committee on Climate Change warned the UK government that fuel poverty would only return to 2007 levels by 2030 if it received targeted, fully funded support. Despite this, the Chancellor announced that the government’s Energy Company Obligation scheme to fund the eradication of fuel poverty was to be cut during the November Autumn Statement.
Whilst tackling fuel poverty is a legal obligation of the Government, energy suppliers recognise their responsibilities, especially to the elderly and those on benefits. Energy suppliers have begun working in tandem with social services, citizens’ advice bureaux and charitable groups to consider the greatest way to assist their vulnerable customers. Thousands of energy customers have been taken out of fuel poverty through the efforts of energy suppliers working with social welfare organisations.
As the world’s fifth-richest country, fuel poverty should not be something a high proportion of our population suffer and The Committee on Climate Change’s report is a stark warning of this, by pointing out that the various plans put in place to eliminate fuel poverty are doomed to largely fail.
It is far too ambitious and unrealistic to say Scotland’s fuel poverty will disappear by December 2016. As great as this would be, politicians and energy companies have to be honest with the general public about exactly what can be done and outline realistic plans. There is financial advice out there for those in fuel poverty which may provide a quick fix, but it does not solve the problem in the longer term. The Energy & Utilities Alliance CEO Mike Foster says “If two in every five households are in fuel poverty, the challenge is simply too big to be met on time.
It is also a sobering statement that, in 15 years’ time, and only after carefully targeted action that is fully funded, will the UK be back in the same position we were eight years ago”.
The issue of fuel poverty is not one that is going to go away any time soon and realistic, long term plans need to be put in place to start reducing the figures. It is positive that ambitious targets are put in place to tackle the issue but without the will and a coherent funding policy, it is difficult to see how the targets will be met. Until then, millions of people will remain trapped in fuel poverty.
If you are struggling to heat your home these sites provide advice and support: