Fuel poverty to rise to 8.5m, report warns


Energy secretary Ed Davey has told the BBC that the government remains committed to do all it can to tackle the problem of fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty in England is likely to worsen, despite measures to try to eradicate it, a government-commissioned report has warned.

Some 7.8 million people could not afford their energy bills in 2009, its author, Prof John Hills said. This is due to rise to 8.5 million by 2016.

Campaigners have called for more money to be invested in cutting bills.

The government has said it is committed to tackling the problem which has been linked to 2,700 deaths a year.

"Fuel poverty is a serious national problem and this government remains committed to doing all it can to tackle it and make sure that the help available reaches those who need it most," said the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey.

The previous government had said it was committed to eradicating the problem, "as far as reasonably practical", by 2016.

Start Quote

"The number of fuel poor households helped by government-backed schemes is likely to more than halve over the next three years, despite fuel poverty levels having almost tripled in five years”

End Quote Derek Lickorish Fuel Poverty Advisory Group (FPAG)

Prof Hills' interim report last year said almost 3,000 people died each year from problems linked to fuel poverty such as respiratory or cardiovascular disease. It said the problem was getting worse as energy costs rose.

But he said the difficulties went beyond health to education and climate change.

"It is also bad for families with older children, if they can't afford to keep a room warm enough for them to get on quietly with their homework," Prof Hills told the BBC.

"People who find their homes hard to heat are pumping out carbon into the atmosphere which is blocking some of the efforts to reduce carbon emissions."

Green deal

Prof Hills' report redefines fuel poverty to focus on households which are both on low income and have relatively high bills.

The new definition includes many lower-income households with relatively high heating and cooking costs which may have been ignored in the past.

A old person holding money in front of a gas fire Fuel poverty is expected to rise over the next four years

"When one focuses on the core of the problem in the way I propose, the outlook is profoundly disappointing," said Prof Hills.

"With the scale of the problem heading to be nearly three times higher in 2016 - the date legislation set for its elimination - than in 2003."

The government has said it will publish its own new definition in the summer.


He called for action to insulate the poorest homes, but warned current government measures would have mixed results.

Case study

Anthony Ford from Wallsend had to give up work two years ago to became a carer for his wife. He's is finding it harder and harder to meet the rising cost of his fuel bills.

"I have had to agree on £100 per month from my £220 per month carer's allowance [for fuel bills].

"Needless to say my savings have disappeared over the last two years.

"The better news is my wife is in remission and she will return to her part-time job at the local school.

"We do not know yet how we will pay the bills. In the last couple of months my gas, water, electric, media services, TV Licence and life and home insurances have escalated - and now my mortgage.

"My carer's allowance has not changed. I do not know what the future holds for us as a family.

"There are people who are working who can't make ends meet, but I'm not able to work because of my wife's illness.

"I've got to have the heating on for my wife. I've had insulation done and I've read my meters every week for the past five years because I'm careful about these things.

"I'm using no more that I was five years ago, but I'm paying three times as much for my gas and electricity."

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) allows firms to levy a flat charge on bills to subsidise insulation.

But with only a quarter of the money specifically targeted at low-income homes, Prof Hills warns it may be "regressive", driving extra homes into fuel poverty.

The government's own Fuel Poverty Advisory Group (FPAG) has called on it to use projected revenues from a minimum price on carbon and carbon trading to tackle fuel poverty.

The government said it is already tackling the problem through a range of other measures, including the Warm Homes Discount, which offers help with bills to low-income households.

New approach

"The number of fuel-poor households helped by government-backed schemes is likely to more than halve over the next three years, despite fuel poverty levels having almost tripled in five years," said Derek Lickorish, chairman of the FPAG.

The new definition is designed to exclude households who are relatively wealthy and have high bills, or who are living on low incomes but have relatively low bills.

By this definition, the report finds 7.8 million people were fuel-poor in 2009, across 2.7 million households, more than previously thought.

Under the previous definition, which focused on households spending 10% of their income on bills, four million households were in fuel poverty but with 7.6 million inhabitants.

Projected rise in fuel poverty
Poverty gap

In addition to examining the extent of fuel poverty, the report also includes a measure of its severity.

The fuel poverty gap shows the amount by which bills would need to be cut, in order for fuel-poverty households to be able to afford to heat their homes.

The report found that in 2009, this figure was £414 per household. By 2016, the report warns, it may be £600.

Campaigners have welcomed the report and also called for a programme of home insulation.

"The time has come for the government to step up and invest to help the fuel-poor households through a major expenditure and an extensive insulation programme," said Michelle Mitchell, director general at Age UK.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    1 GALLON of petrol in Iran $0.39

    2484% cheaper than here.

    'Their' government subsidize the countries fuels, to keep it running.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Old age pensioners die every year becasue they cannot pay their fuel/electricity bills.

    Simple solution. Nationalise the power industry. Why should a tiny handful of people make a huge profit from providing services?

    Nationalise the electricity industry and make it non-profit-making. If there's no profit, the cost must go down to the end-user.


  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    83. Sidney Monroe
    Sid, the wind farm & solar panel scam has been exposed, but it’s too late.
    The numpty politicians have jumped on this bandwagon & many contracts have been signed.
    Total wind energy output stands below 1%; probably less than what was used to do the building & commissioning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    When we people understand - we have an elitist, Tory government - they don't care about poor people. Nothing will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    OK Robbo. Bet you can manage on £107 a week. My council tax takes £38 from that to subsidise scroungerss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    People on benefits get some help sometimes but with benefits cut and eligibility reduced, more families will not be able to afford their homes. Families with incomes just a few pounds above the benefit level are worse off as they get little or no help. Many pensioners who have small work pensions in addition to state pensions and believed saving for old age was a good thing belong to this group.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I have a large log burner that heats 6 radiators,I buy scrap hardwood locally and my winter fuel bill so far is about £70.
    I didn't want to be held to ransom by the energy companies.
    Only snag is,the water pump's electric powered.
    Buy a hamster !

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Cannot afford fuel?

    Try and budget better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.


    Steve. You forgot to mention the excessive water rates those of us living in Cornwall also have to pay to keep the sea water nice and clean for rich 2nd home owners & those who are rich enough to holiday here in the summer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    How many of those who can't afford their energy bills can afford mobile phones, Sky TV and other discretionary items? I'm getting fed up with being asked to fund pther peoples' lifestyle choices rather than finance a safety net whcih I don't object to in the slightest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    @Toffee Si Skell (70) - it's not just heating that is at issue if you're disabled.Ventilators, charging up electric wheelchairs, constant bed changes neccessitating frequent laundry washes, frequent hospital appointments using precious road fuel.These things cannot be fixed by saying "put another jumper on "

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Fuel bills would be a lot cheaper if it were not for green taxes and trying to get meaningful power from windmills. People are dying in this country because of this nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    55. Council_Employee
    “if we 'save' money on our energy bills, they will just raise their profit margin to compensate”.

    The same can be said of cars.
    If we all drove cars that were twice as efficient, the companies & Government would increase the costs to compensate.
    The incentive to go green is only a temporary one if cost reduction is the only aim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Quote "70. Toffee Si Skell
    Before spending £1,500 on heating your house, think about buying a thicker blanket, duvet, jumper, etc for a fraction of the cost."

    Out of an annual income of £6000 I could never afford £1500 on anything and thats the income for 2 of us, on Benefits!

    But that.s ok I am "languishing" on them if you believe the Daily Mail Crowd on here

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    @66 right, however £70 will buy you a builders bag of seasoned pine in most areas of England. That would last most maybe a week if used to try and heat radiators during a cold spell.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    It's a scandal that so many people cannot afford to heat their homes properly while the ruling elite have wealth beyond imagination.
    We deserve better than this sorry state of affairs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Britain is 1 of the wealthiest countries in the world and 1 of the highest taxed, this government would have you believe we are penniless and why wouldn't they? As you seem to believe every word they say whilst they are moving billions via mass corporates as I speak they have no place for the lower classes if you die of the cold so be it,George Orwell must be splitting his sides, you've been duped

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    This country needs to learn to build energy efficent houses. I went to French Alps this winter. In the night temperature was about -6 to -8. And yet I had to switch heating off in my room and open the window. Their chalets are that efficient.

    Here I have to heat all night through although outside temperature never goes bellow +5.

    Feel the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    My 3 bed home was a prefab, my winter gas bill 7 years ago was £450 & was still cold but bearable, it was refurbed 6 years ago, there's now bricks & proper insulation around & in the exterior walls, the roof has just under 500mm of insulation in the loft & my winter gas bill is now is no more than £150 & it's a much warmer house too. Proper walls & good insulation certainly work & that's a fact!

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    If your poor, get use to it - you will be even poorer by the end of this government.

    If your middle class, you wont be in 3 years time,

    if your rich, then Wohoo! Let the good times carry on rolling!

    No one cares if choose to heat or eat, if you die then you save the NHS some cash and the government saves cash on your pension.

    And the worse thing about it is that we cant do anything to stop it!


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