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Fuel poverty: UK households ‘worst hit in western Europe’

Consumers in the UK are suffering from the worst fuel poverty in western Europe, worrying new research has revealed.

Energy bills in the UK have rocketed due to poor levels of insulation in the nation’s homes, figures from the Association for the Conservation for Energy and the Energy Bill Revolution campaign indicated.

Admittedly, most other European countries continue to face higher energy prices than those in the UK; better levels of insulation in the home meaning that people in Europe pay less to heat their homes.

More than five million households in the UK will be subject to fuel poverty this winter, it was found. In addition, this number is predicted to rise further to hit eight million within the next four years.

It was not just insulation that the UK scored poorly on, however.

Other measures in which the country is lagging include the affordability of heating (14/15), the share of household expenditure going on heating (11/13) and the ability of a property to keep the heat in (11/15).

The Energy Bill Revolution campaign

The Energy Bill Revolution campaign is calling for a programme of home improvements. These will include insulating walls, floors, roofs, doors and windows. It is believed this could save families on average more than £400 each year on their fuel bills.

Ed Matthew, director of the Energy Bill Revolution, commented: “Insulating our housing stock to Scandinavian standards can help end the blight of fuel poverty once and for all. And we can afford to do so.

“The Treasury collects enough carbon tax to super-insulate over half a million homes a year. Eventually every UK home could benefit, slashing energy bills and weaning the UK off its addiction to gas.”

Experts have described the severe impact cold homes can have on health. Indeed, the UK has one of the highest levels of excess winter deaths in Europe, with more than 7,000 people dying from cold homes each year.

Excess winter deaths

Age UK has warned that this long spell of freezing winter weather is likely to have caused thousands of extra deaths among older people. Installing high levels of insulation in homes could cut the average annual heating bill by more than £400, experts believe, potentially eliminating fuel poverty.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, warned that older people living in cold homes are three times more likely to die prematurely due to a heart attack or stroke than those living in warmer ones.

“This report clearly shows that Britain is trailing behind our European counterparts when it comes to providing decent housing which people can afford to heat and it is the oldest and most vulnerable who suffer most,” she said.

“We must invest new carbon taxes in a programme of energy efficiency to bring Britain’s housing stock into the 21st century and enable people to benefit from the heat they use.”

This follows a Netmums survey this winter which revealed that one in four families have had to choose between putting the heating on and putting food on the table.

However, the government has cut fuel poverty funding for families by some 27 per cent since coming to power, with the Warm Front Programme being axed earlier this year.

Fuel poverty occurs when an individual spends more than ten per cent of their income on paying energy bills.

  • john Griffiths

    We keep being told insulate and save money RUBBISH, I have double glazing , cavity wall and loft insulation 95% of my ligts are enery saving my external security lights are solar powered and all our items such as washer fridge television are reated at 3. So i am using at least half the power I used 4 years ago but our bill have trebled. So no one saves asthe power companies just keep on increasing the cost. excuse global warming but have changed their mind now it is climate change, something that has been going on over millions of years.

    • Clare

      Since getting cavity wall insulation and increasing the loft stuff we use way less power than before – the combined cost of electricity, oil and coal costs me around £1000 – probably 200 or so more than 5/6 years ago.

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