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Fuel poverty & energy efficiency – recommendations to tackle the cold homes crisis in the UK

Last month our Sustain colleagues were pleased to attend an event in Westminster as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Group (FPEEG) of which they are an advisory member.

FPEEG is a cross-party coalition of MPs and peers dedicated to the alleviation of fuel poverty. Their mission is to raise awareness of the problem and promote the policies that are needed to eradicate it.The group is co-chaired by MPs from the Green, Conservative and Labour parties and is supported by a network of other MPs and peers drawn from different political parties as well as advisory members from charities, local authorities, housing associations, energy suppliers, network operators, energy efficiency manufacturers and installers.

So why is fuel poverty such an important issue?

The consequences of the problem

It is well documented that the physical impacts of living in a cold home cause unnecessary suffering and premature mortality. Studies have even shown that living in a cold home is a bigger killer than smoking, lack of exercise and alcohol abuse. In addition, the financial stress and anxiety over energy bills can cause or exacerbate mental health problems, leading to depression and even suicide.

The extent of the problem

Whilst fuel poverty is measured differently across the UK, in England it’s measured using the Low Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator. Under the LIHC indicator, a household is considered to be fuel poor if:

  • they have required fuel costs that are above average
  • were they to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.

Whilst it is difficult to accurately calculate the extent of fuel poverty across the UK, it is estimated that 4 million homes – roughly 15% of all households – are affected.The current scale of these problem in England alone costs health services approximately £3.6 million per day, and in the past four years alone over £5 billion of tax payers’ money has been spent treating the morbidity associated with cold homes.

What can be done about it?

Through their research, the FPEEG concluded that the foundations for successfully reducing the levels of fuel poverty are:

  1. Identification of the addresses of those living in fuel poverty so that assistance can be provided to those most in need.
  2. Substantial additional funds and resources.
  3. Action at both national and local levels.

The Prospectus for Universal Affordable Warmth

Since the level of assistance provided for the fuel poor varies across nations, localities, agencies, government programmes, and is dependent upon different funding streams, FPEEG have produced a prospectus showcasing best practice fuel poverty-alleviating schemes.The hope is that the report will lead to an enhanced appetite to introduce or expand local and national affordable warmth schemes and encourage local councils, combined authorities, local enterprise partnerships, health and social services and healthcare commissioners to work collaboratively to end fuel poverty.To read the prospectus for universal affordable warmth in full, click here.

Effective measures to alleviate fuel poverty

Many of the best practice schemes highlighted in the prospectus contained similar components which FPEEG concluded to be the most effective measures to alleviate fuel poverty. These are:

  • Providing energy advice to the community
  • Creating new energy connections for off-gas communities
  • Installing a range of energy efficiency and insulation assistance to all households
  • Schemes that incorporate the assistance to local public health agencies who collaborate on winter protection and affordable warmth
  • Providing good quality housing stock to vulnerable people.

National recommendations

Ultimately, FPEEG hope that the governments within each nation, as well as the UK Government, will recognise the benefits of acting to spread affordable warmth initiatives more consistently across the UK and invest at the scale needed to eradicate the cost and suffering caused by fuel poverty.Below are a series of national recommendations they will be making to government:

  1. Tackle low incomes and link to wider support
  2. Take further steps to tackle exclusion in the energy market and support the smart meter roll-out
  3. Introduce new and ambitious programmes
  4. Tackle the worst conditions in the private rented sector as a priority and galvanise work in local authorities
  5. Reduce the cost to health services of cold homes
  6. Improve targeting of assistance and help practitioners identify cold homes
  7. Work with network companies
  8. Make the case for energy efficiency to be regarded as a key national infrastructure priority.

Help for local authorities

Sustain work’s with local authorities to identify households in fuel poverty and assist through the installation of funded energy efficiency measures. For more information please visit Sustain’s page on fuel poverty reduction or contact Tobias Parker.

This blog originally appeared on the Sustain website

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