New report warns failing fuel poverty strategies will leave flagship net zero commitment dead in the water

Embargoed until 00:01Tuesday 17th September

A new report recently released [Tuesday 17th September] claims thousands of people across the UK will die this coming winter as national strategies to keep people warm are failing them. The new report also highlights that floundering progress to improve domestic energy efficiency will leave the UK Government’s flagship net zero commitment dead in the water.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of National Energy Action (NEA) said:

“On average, across the UK, at least 11,400 people die each winter because they are unable to keep their homes warm. These needless deaths will happen again this winter as all the existing fuel poverty strategies across the UK, milestones and targets, with the exception of Scotland, are currently out of date, failing or being missed.

“Poor domestic energy efficiency is also a major contributor to global warming. We simply can’t achieve net zero 2050 without dramatically improving the energy efficiency in all of our housing stock, especially in the homes of the most vulnerable in our society. Our warning is clear; further inaction will add to the terrible toll of those who have already perished needlessly in their homes and leave the UK Government’s flagship net zero commitment dead in the water”.

The annual UK Fuel Poverty Monitor report, produced by fuel poverty charities National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS), has been published at the NEA Annual Conference in Sheffield where City Mayor, Dan Jarvis MP, will address over 250 delegates to try and halt the crisis.

The Monitor report draws on feedback from 119 agencies working on the frontline to end fuel poverty and inform a consultation on updating the UK Government’s Fuel Poverty Strategy for England which closes this week. The report’s findings and NEA’s response to the consultation tally with a report by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee released in July 2019 which warned the UK ‘stands no chance’ of meeting its 2050 net zero emissions target without urgent action on energy efficiency and called for the UK Government to revive ‘failing’ policies to meet climate change targets and end fuel poverty. This follows a 95% reduction in the number of insulation measures installed in homes per year between 2012 and 2017 due to the UK Government cutting the only GB-wide energy efficiency programme, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), in half and abandoning the flagship programme, Warm Front, in England.

Norman Kerr, Director of Energy Action Scotland (EAS) and co-author of the report concludes:

 “Energy Action Scotland welcomes the new Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act 2019 and the forthcoming Fuel Poverty Strategy as Scotland works and invests in a Just Transition to a low carbon economy. But we cannot be complacent. Having failed to reach its last fuel poverty target, Scotland must make good on its aim to provide a lifeline to those struggling against the currents of hard-to-heat housing and fuel poverty.

“It is time for Scotland to see housing as the cornerstone of health and wellbeing. Fuel poverty is responsible for seven additional deaths every day of winter in Scotland, a statistic that shames us as a nation. Cold damp homes increase pressure on frontline GP services and prevent people returning home from hospital. The cost of fuel poverty is enormous to society and its ripples can be seen across the breadth of services, comprising outcomes and claiming lives.

“Energy Action Scotland will continue to campaign for the right to warm, dry homes until we can relegate fuel poverty to history where it belongs.”

To address the crisis, the report contains national and UK-wide recommendations. One of the main calls is for the UK Government to designate domestic energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, in line with recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change, BEIS Select Committee, Committee on Fuel Poverty (CFP) in England and the existing designation of the Scottish Government (2015). This would be supported by a new UK-wide fund to support the aims of the UK-wide Clean Growth Strategy to ensure all UK homes reach an EPC band C no later than 2035. This would prioritise assistance on fuel poor households to help each of the UK nations meet their own fuel poverty targets and milestones and support the UK’s net zero commitment.

Ends

Editors notes

The report will be available at https://www.nea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Fuel-poverty-monitor-high-res.pdf from 10am on Tuesday 17 September. For advance copies or for additional comment or information please contact Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Research at NEA [07595 780893 / peter.smith@nea.org.uk ]

1. The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor is the annual investigative report on fuel poverty in the UK and within each of the four nations, published by National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS). It assesses and reviews policies which are either aimed at or affect the main drivers of fuel poverty, namely: the energy efficiency of domestic dwellings, household incomes and the cost of energy. This year’s annual UK Fuel Poverty Monitor will be launched at the NEA’s Annual Conference in Sheffield on 17 September. For more information about the conference visit: https://www.nea.org.uk/conferences-and-seminars/nea-annual-conference-exhibition-2019/. To read the report visit: https://www.nea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Fuel-poverty-monitor-high-res.pdf [available from 10am on Tuesday 17 September].

2. NEA works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that everyone in the UK can afford to live in a warm, dry home. To achieve this, they aim to improve access to energy and debt advice, provide training, support energy efficiency policies, local projects and co-ordinate other related services which can help change lives. Energy Action Scotland (EAS) campaigns for an end to fuel poverty in Scotland and is the only national charity with this sole remit. EAS aims to develop and promote effective solutions to the problem of cold, damp and expensive to heat homes.

3. The Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 sets the primary legislative basis for action to end fuel poverty. The Act also describes what is meant by the term “living in fuel poverty”. In 2003, the first UK wide Fuel Poverty Strategy Annual Progress Report stated that “the goal of the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations is to seek an end to the problem of fuel poverty. In particular we will seek an end to the blight of fuel poverty for vulnerable households by 2010”. Since then however, energy prices have soared, national definitions of fuel poverty have changed, there has been a large reduction in support offered by local authorities and national energy efficiency programmes, devolution of key powers and regrettably, the original goal to end fuel poverty across the UK (or within the nations) has not been met. Based on the last known statistics using the previous 10% definition, 4.5m households across the UK were in fuel poverty in 2015.

4. Although the UK nations now use different definitions; fuel poverty affects 24.9% of households in Scotland, 22% in Northern Ireland, 12% in Wales and 10.9% of households in England; see table below.

 

 

5. The winter of 2017-18 saw the highest recorded numbers of Excess Winter Deaths in the UK since 1975-76. In England, cold temperatures killed over 50,000 people (and cold homes killed over 15,000). In Northern Ireland, there were 1500 excess winter deaths, of which around 450 can be attributed to cold homes. In Scotland, 4,800 excess deaths over winter saw 1,440 people dying as a result of living in a home which was too cold. There were 3,400 excess winter deaths in Wales, around 1000 of which will have been linked with cold homes. Across the UK, that means around 16,900 people will have died because they were unable to keep their home warm enough. NEA also estimates the cold conditions led to at least 135,000 unnecessary non-fatal hospital admissions as a result of inadequate indoor temperatures which left national and local health and social care services ‘creaking at the seams’.

6. Last year’s report revealed how the UK failed to cope with Beast from the East and highlighted that as a result of poor planning or a lack of national resources people in the UK were almost 10 times more likely to die from a cold home than a road traffic accident.