Following the recent elections in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, two major energy charities have published a joint report highlighting why progress to eradicate fuel poverty across the UK has slowed despite statutory commitments and current policies – notwithstanding last week’s elections to the Scottish parliament and devolved administrations in Wales and N. Ireland.
The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor – produced annually by Energy Action Scotland and the National Energy Association in England – reports that huge variations and changes to relevant national and UK wide affordable warmth policies have inevitably hindered progress to eradicate fuel poverty
EAS and the NEA have produced the annual UK Fuel Poverty Monitor report since 2003. The report specifically aims to review fuel poverty policies in the four UK nations.
It also provides an opportunity to identify cross-nation learning to inform policy makers and practitioners. The publication of this year’s report reviews progress on the previous recommendations that have been made since 2010 and draws this analysis together within each country and at a UK level.
Since 2011 there is no longer a common approach to the way fuel poverty is measured across the UK nations. Following Professor Hills’ recommendations the Low Income High Cost (LIHC) indicator definition is now used in England.
Prior to the introduction of the Low Income High Costs indicator in England, fuel poverty was measured under the 10%-indicator across the whole of the UK.
The 10%-indicator continues to be used in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Under this indicator, a household is considered to be fuel poor if they were required to spend more than 10%-of their income on fuel to maintain an adequate standard of warmth.
Under this definition, in the last five years alone, there are now over 500,000 more fuel poor households and 4.5 million households are living in cold homes across the UK. An adequate standard of warmth is usually defined as 21ºC for the main living area, and 18ºC for other occupied rooms.
Norman Kerr, Director of Energy Action Scotland, said: “For over five years EAS has called on the Scottish Government to commit to a detailed route-map with targets and milestones for eradicating fuel poverty.
“The new SNP-led minority Scottish Government must now act on this key recommendation. The report also calls on the new Government to press on with the introduction of ambitious energy efficiency regulations for private sector homes”.
Peter Smith, Head of Policy and Research at NEA, commented: “Despite our report warning for many years that a pan UK-wide approach to eradicating fuel poverty is a very distant prospect, in the last five years alone there are now over 500,000 more fuel poor households living in cold homes.
“We hope the report will help all UK nations to now get the job done and end the unnecessary cost and suffering caused by fuel poverty once and for all”.
Pat Austin, Director of NEA Northern Ireland, said: “Despite recent drops in wholesale energy prices, further actions are needed to address dependency on home heating oil. Policy makers in NI also must ensure current and future schemes are effectively targeted at those that need the most support to reduce their heating costs”.
And Carole Morgan Jones, Director of NEA (Wales) added: “Whilst it is clear from the report that tackling fuel poverty needs a more joined up approach between the devolved administrations and UK Government, the newly elected Welsh Government needs to adopt a fresh approach within its devolved areas of responsibility.
“The Fuel Poverty Coalition Cymru’s Manifesto ‘Ending Wales’ Cold Homes Crisis’ sets out five clear priorities for action for the new Government including an urgent need to address the needless deaths caused by cold homes”.
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