Fuel Poverty a Growing Problem in the UK
Summer typically isn’t a time when people worry about heating their houses, but a troubling new report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) might bring the problem into focus for many UK residents. According to the report, rising gas and electricity prices pushed another million households across the UK into fuel poverty in 2009. Read on to find out what government and non-government organisations are doing to address fuel poverty in the UK.
A fuel-poor household is defined as one which cannot afford to keep adequately warm at reasonable cost. In fact, fuel poor homes spend more than 10% of their household incomes on keeping warm. According to the DECC, households that are most vulnerable to fuel poverty are ones with the elderly, children, or a resident who is disabled or long term sick.
Rising prices were a main culprit in the huge rise in fuel-poor households in 2009. According to the DECC, gas prices rose 14% from 2008 to 2009 and electricity prices rose by 5% in the same time period.
The DECC data came on the heels of the announcement of another price increase by British Gas, which will see gas and electricity prices rise by 18% and 16% on average. Scottish Power has announced similar increases, and the rest of the “big six” suppliers are expected to follow suit in coming weeks.
While fuel poverty numbers for 2010 and 2011 won’t be known for years, the current price rises will almost certainly lead to a further increase in fuel poverty.
Audrey Gallacher, Director of Energy at Consumer Focus, said, ‘Fuel poverty levels are set to soar as energy price hikes and the cost of investment in making our energy supply more secure and sustainable kick in. Increasing energy costs create hardship for millions of the poorest pensioners, families and disabled people, leaving many cutting back on heating or other essentials. It is an issue which cannot be left on the backburner.
‘Worryingly the predictions for fuel poverty in 2011 are likely to be an underestimate as four of the Big Six have yet to announce their expected price rises. If these are in line with the increases announced from British Gas and Scottish Power around 12 million people, or 6.4 million British households, are likely to be in fuel poverty when the latest price rises hit.”
WWF Scotland, one of People’s Postcode Lottery’s supported charities, is lobbying government for a rapid increase in the pace and scale of improving the energy efficiency of Scottish homes. Elizabeth Leighton, Senior Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said, “Many of our poorest families live in homes with little or no insulation, resulting in them having to pay high energy bills and deal with the illness associated with the cold. In order to lift these households out of fuel poverty and reduce the emissions caused by poor insulation, regulation is vital as we can’t rely on voluntary action.”
“These new figures show the old policies to help the most vulnerable were not working,” Climate Change Minister Greg Barker agreed. “That’s why, this year, we’ve introduced the Warm Home Discount which will require the Big Six energy companies to provide discounts of at least £120 to about 600,000 of the poorest pensioners. We’re also pushing for stronger competition to keep price rises as low as possible.
“In the longer term, we’ll be helping people use less energy with the Green Deal which will provide extra support for the poorest and most vulnerable to benefit from energy efficiency measures.”
If you would like to help, why not play People’s Postcode Lottery? By playing, you will be supporting charities like WWF-Scotland and the work they’re doing to combat fuel poverty. To date, our players have raised nearly £170,000 for the charity!