UK-based charities argue that more effective approaches to improve domestic energy efficiency and introduce low carbon heat can address concerns about levels of fuel poverty across the country

A charity has warned that predicted increases in fuel price over the course of 2022 will raise the risk of fuel poverty without significant efficiency improvements in homes.

National Energy Action, along with Energy Action Scotland (EAS), have marked the occasion of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day on 3 December with the release of a report warning that ambitions to curb carbon emissions from heating was deeply intertwined with fuel poverty issues.

The report was critical in particular of the scale of fuel poverty commitments in the UK’s delayed Heat and Building Strategy that last set out broad pledges for national plans to decarbonise homes for the next three years.

The NEA said that the investment pledged in the government’s heating plan and the recently published Net Zero Strategy was less than half the amount of financial support promised in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto for the least efficient and most heavily polluting homes.

Research from both charities said that significant barriers existed to introducing low carbon technologies into fuel poor households. This was hampered by a lack of clarity on the medium-term and long-term future of energy efficiency schemes and clean heat funding commitments.

Matt Copeland, policy and public affairs head at the NEA, said there were significant concerns about the affordability of cleaner heat, particularly in low-income or efficient homes.

He said, “The poorest households do not have the money to invest in the technologies that will reduce their carbon emissions, and while the strategies to meet net zero across the UK set an ambition to ensure that affordability is central, much more must be done to achieve this.”

“To end the suffering of fuel poor households winter after winter, there must be significant sustained investment in levelling-up homes. Without it, the litmus test of a fair transition will have been failed, and there will be a significant risk of leaving the poorest households behind.”

Frazer Scott, director of the report’s co-author Energy Action Scotland, claimed that fuel poverty was estimated to impact one in four Scottish homes.  He said the charity was therefore calling for a renewed focus to prioritise addressing fuel poverty and reducing carbon emissions from home.

He said, “There is huge potential to transform the lives of vulnerable people, people on low incomes, people with chaotic and challenging lives but this needs to be targeted, inclusive, proactive and fair.”

Cost fears

The NEA said that issue of fuel poverty would become increasingly significant over the course of 2022 with fears that changes to the UK’s energy price cap could see annual fuel bills increase by as much as £550.  The changes are set to come into effect from April.

Adam Scorer, NEA chief executive, said as many as 4.5 million UK homes could be struggling with affording heat prices at a time where the cost of essential services were seen as being at their highest for a decade.

Mr Scorer said, “Bills have increased by well over £230 since last winter and millions now face a daily heat or eat dilemma. We estimate energy bills will rocket again in April, doubling the average householders’ heating bills since last year.”

“Over the same period, those on the lowest incomes have seen their income plummet by over £1,000 per year. Just think about that. For people already on a budgetary knife-edge, the cost of keeping a family warm has exploded while budgets have collapsed. No amount of useful tips or savvy shopping can cope with that.”


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