Fuel Poverty in the UK – What You Need to Know

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The issue of fuel poverty is surrounded by misconceptions but what is a fact is that around 2.3 million UK household’s can’t afford to keep their home adequately heated. Here’s another fact; every year, 25,000 elderly people die as a result of living in a cold home – one person, over the age of 65, every 7 minutes. These are scary statistics.

Many people believe that fuel poverty only hits those on benefits; however this is not the case, and in actual fact, a study carried out by Warmer Homes last winter showed that nearly half the households living in fuel poverty in the UK had someone in work. Fuel poverty hits homes as a result of the household income being lower than the poverty line, and a property having higher than typical energy costs.  

In the UK our housing stock is among the least energy efficient when compared to that of our European neighbours. As a result it is people from all walks of life who are now spending significant sections of their income trying to keep warm.

Most people also misconceive that it is only the elderly affected by fuel poverty but this again is wrong. Heating a poorly insulated house adequately for small children is also expensive. In 2013, a report by the Association for the Conservation of Energy estimated that there were at least 1.5 million children living in fuel poverty in the UK.

 While fuel poverty in cities tends to be more visible, it doesn’t just affect urban areas. Fuel poverty is actually more of an issue in rural areas off the main gas grid where household energy bills are on average 27% higher. It has also been noted that households living in the least energy efficient properties would have to spend as much as £1,700 extra a year to heat their home to a suitable temperature.  

Fuel poverty has been made worse by rising energy bills with a Warmer Homes study revealing that consumer gas prices increased by 128% over the 10 year period from 2003 to 2013. So, why is it that energy prices are at historically low levels, yet nothing is being done to improve the UK’s existing house stock before the prices, predominately, rise again?

Reacting to the statistics, Andrew Sheldon, founder and MD of Ice Energy, said “It is devastating that in this day and age nearly 2.3million UK households cannot afford to adequately heat their homes. The issue is that people don’t actually realise that something relatively simple can be done to help change these figures for the better. By switching from an expensive and inefficient oil or gas boiler to a much more efficient ground or air source heat pump for example and adding some basic insulation, significant changes can be made to the thermal efficiency of a property and the impact on the finances of the people living there.

“While a number of housing associations and local authorities have taken this on board to help address those living in social housing, more needs to be done to help promote the idea of renewables to the public which is why Ice Energy holds regular Open Days in addition to their national exhibition schedule. Only by information and education can the blight of fuel poverty be removed – inaction is no longer acceptable.”

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