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Definition of ‘fuel poverty’ may change

Are we letting down vulnerable customers?

fuel poverty

The government has launched a consultation into how ‘fuel poverty’ in the UK is to be measured.

The proposals follow an independent review conducted by Professor John Hills of the LSE earlier in the year, with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) pushing for the changes to ensure ‘more accurate measurement’.

A new definition of fuel poverty could well include ‘dual indicators’ with one to measure the number of people affected (extent) and another to measure how badly they are affected (depth).

The new definition could also change the goverment’s fuel poverty reduction targets as laid out in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000. The Act aimed to eliminate fuel poverty by 22 November 2016, ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’.

Announcing the launch of the consultation, a release from DECC stated: “This is not confirmation of a change in the fuel poverty target; it is recognition of the fact that a new definition may not align with the target as it currently stands and this needs to be considered.”

Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary said: “We want to make sure people across the country are able to keep warm in winter and we have a range of schemes in place already doing just that.

“But with the number of people living in fuel poverty projected to rise, the time has come to go back to basics to ensure we are doing all we can.

“This means defining and measuring fuel poverty in the right way and working up a new fuel poverty strategy so that we can target our available resources where they are needed most.”

Fuel poverty

Fuel poverty is currently defined as the number of households which spend over 10% of their income on their energy bills.

The most recent fuel poverty figures from May this year show that estimated fuel poverty in the UK in 2010 impacted 4.75m households, down from 5.5m in 2009, but that 2012 was likely to see increases.

uSwitch research from 2011 found a huge regional variation in fuel poverty, as detailed in the graphic below:

Fuel-Poverty-is a regional-issue-December-2011

Learn more…

Energy debt – Getting into energy debt can be extremely worrying, but there is help out there.

Social tariffs – Social energy tariffs are designed to help those in fuel poverty where energy bills add up to more than 10% of household income.

  • Michael Martin-Smith

    Fuel poverty logically can most economically and at least cost in extra bureaucracy by deep and universal cuts in energy tariffs. Open no-holds barred competition on price must become the norm among energy suppliers.

    The rise in energy prices among the Big Six at similar rates and within a few weeks of each other proves to the public that an effective cartel is operating. This needs to be probed, in public, by a watchdog with powers to revoke licences and replace suppliers with new independent suppliers using home grown fuels, avoiding the “world oil price” argument so often deployed in defence of the current one -way escalator operated in fuel pricing.

    The best way to avoid accusations of operating a cartel is to cease acting like one, and break ranks on fixing energy prices to customers. “Divide and Rule” was good enough in Ancient Rome- why not in the energy market of today?

    No more grants or encouragement should be given to renewable supplies until they can outperform fossil fuels in a cut-throat market.

    The public is highly concerned and cynical about rising energy prices, and if this is not meaningfully addressed by the time of the next General Election, the voters should vote accordingly. Politicians can then follow their constituents out into the Cold!