A committee of MP’s has warned the government is set to fail its own fuel poverty reduction targets. The goal is to eradicate fuel poverty in vulnerable households in England by the end of this year; households with children, pensioners and the disabled. The longer term aim is to end it completely by 2016.
It would seem these targets are now deemed too ambitious, because the Energy and Climate Change Committee has admitted this year’s target will be missed, and the 2016 one is looking ‘increasingly difficult to hit’.
Fuel poverty is when a household is spending over 10% of its income on its gas and electricity bills. A recent report commissioned by the Committee confirmed millions of households are in fuel poverty and are worried about turning their heating on. The situation has not been helped by the rising costs of energy bills, and the record breaking cold winter.
The report revealed around 2.8million households in England are in fuel poverty, and the majority of these are classed as vulnerable. It predicted rising energy prices could end up pushing a further 2.4million home into by 2016.
To prevent this from happening and get people out of fuel poverty, the Committee recommends the government introduce a fixed discount on gas and electricity for pensioners and people who are seriously ill.
It also called for more localized energy efficiency schemes, where people could learn about simple home improvements to save energy and money. They also suggested other measures like setting up a database of the energy efficiency ratings of homes, particularly those under the Warm Front scheme which provides financial assistance to vulnerable households.
The chairman of the Committee, Paddy Tipping said, ‘One of the reasons tackling fuel poverty is so difficult is that the government does not have a clear idea about who the fuel poor are.’
The government responded by saying since last winter the Warm Front scheme has helped many households out of fuel poverty and carried out 25,000 insulation or heating jobs.
David Kidney, the Energy and Climate Change minister said, ‘…we’ll be requiring energy companies to double their collective spend to £300m a year by 2013 on social price support, helping more of their most vulnerable customers with their energy bills.’
Some consumer groups and environmental campaigners believe this is not enough to tackle the issue. Andy Atkin from Friends of the Earth said, ‘The government must introduce a comprehensive nationwide energy efficiency programme that priorities those most at risk’.
Also speaking of the Committee’s recommendations was Jonathan Stearn of Consumer Focus who said the suggested fixed discounts should be extended. He said, ‘Such a simple measure would have a huge impact, covering nearly half of households living in fuel poverty and struggling to meet their bills.’
We recommend you read our guide, ‘Helpful ways to cope with energy debt’.