The latest definition of fuel poverty, published in the Sustainable Warmth strategy in February 2021, outlined that it is now measured using the Low-Income Low Energy Efficiency (LILEE) indicator. A household is said to be fuel poor if it is living in a property with an energy efficiency rating of band D, E, F or G and has a disposable income deemed to be below the poverty line.
What does it really mean to be in fuel poverty?
Many of those in fuel poverty struggle to heat their homes adequately. There have been studies to suggest that the fuel poor are more likely to be living in cold and damp homes, which is a contributing factor in health issues such as respiratory diseases, heart diseases, circulatory diseases, and mental health problems.
It is a sad fact, that in 2023, some of the most vulnerable in our communities are struggling to afford a warm, comfortable home in the 21st century.
Together, we have a challenge to overcome. A challenge of eradicating fuel poverty so that people’s health within our communities is not impacted by a lack of warmth, cold and leaky homes.
Households are impacted by ever rising gas and electricity bills which need adequate insulation and heating measures.
But what is the government doing about it?
Government fuel poverty targets
The government has set out targets to improve the energy efficiency of homes that households in fuel poverty live in.
The government’s statutory fuel poverty target for England is to ensure that as many fuel poor households as reasonably practicable achieve a minimum energy efficiency rating of band C by 2030, with interim targets of band E by 2020, and band D by 2025.
Current projections according to BEIS
Figures from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) suggest the proportion of households in fuel poverty will fall from 13.4% or 3.18 million homes in 2019, to 12.5% or 3 million homes in 2021.
Key drivers of fuel poverty
There are three main areas that impact fuel poor households: energy efficiency, energy prices and incomes.
The government are looking to tackle fuel poverty through energy efficiency initiatives.
The current Energy Company Obligation scheme, otherwise known as ECO4, is designed to tackle fuel poverty, help save money on householder’s energy bills, reduce carbon emissions, and help the environment.
ECO4, is an obligation placed by the government on to the energy companies, to provide funding to qualifying households, for a range of energy efficiency measures such as insulation and boiler replacements. Local Authority Flex, has meant a greater number of households can benefit from the scheme, depending on the local needs of the community they live in.
There are a number of other retrofit schemes designed to provide funding for households across all tenures – social housing tenants, owner occupiers and private tenants. These include the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and Sustainable Warmth Schemes (HUG and LAD).
Householders across the UK have been struggling with rising energy bills for a while. Wholesale prices and the war in Ukraine contribute to this steep rise.
Rising energy prices and a cost of living crisis is causing more households to fall into fuel poverty.
The coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly increased financial hardship for many people across the UK.
According to the Office for National Statistics, ‘following a period of employment growth and low unemployment, since the start of the pandemic, employment has generally been decreasing and unemployment increasing. However, there are signs of economic recovery’.
This combined with the announcement in April that energy bills are set to rise, will potentially mean thousands more people will possibly join those, already classed as living in fuel poverty.
Taking a holistic approach to tackling fuel poverty must be the solution. A joint up approach to the support available to fuel poor households is what is needed. Looking at energy efficiency initiatives to reach those most in need, addressing ever increasing energy bills and educating people on energy switching whilst working to address low incomes and unemployment.