The Hills Review proposes a new measure of fuel poverty exposes the inadequacy of government plans to improve home insulation. According to the new Low Income/ High Cost (LIHC) index suggested by Professor John Hills,covering both number of people affected and the severity of the problem, 8 million people in England, in 2.7 million households, are in fuel poverty. They facd costs to keep warm that add up to £1.1 billion more than middle or higher income people with typical costs. Yet current government schemes targeting the energy efficiency of homes lived in by people with low incomes will only cut fuel poverty by a tenth by 2016, Hills concludes.
Meanwhile, a new petition from the Energy Bill Revolution, which the TUC and a number of trade unions are backing, wants the Government to use the increasing amount of money it gets from carbon taxes to help make homes super-energy efficient and create thousands of new jobs in home insulation, renewable energy and modern boilers.
Professor Hill estimates that the “fuel poverty gap” – already three-quarters
higher than in 2003 – will rise by a further half, to £1.7 billion by 2016.
This means fuel poor households will face costs nearly £600 a year higher on
average than better-off households with typical costs.
Friends of the Earth welcomes the review, arguing that “however you define fuel poverty, improving energy efficiency for people on low incomes is the answer.” FoE has again questioned the governments proposed cuts to homes insulation and energy efficiency schemes.
National Energy Action expressed a similar view. The Government is committed to the eradication of fuel poverty for all households in England by 2016. However,
rising energy prices, inadequately resourced programmes and “failure to implement a coherent strategy” means that fuel poverty has continued to increase and currently affects more than 5 million households.
Low income and homes’ energy inefficiency overlaps in 3 ways:
- Poverty- because households with high energy costs living in poverty faced extra costs to keep warm above those with much higher incomes, adding up to £1.1 billion. These costs are largely outside their control as they imply huge expenditure by landlords on energy efficiency.
- Health and well-being – because low temperature living contributes not just to 27,000 “excess winter deaths” each year, but to a much larger number of incidents of ill-health demands on the NHS.
- Carbon reduction – because energy inefficiency of the homes of those living in
fuel poverty adds to carbon emissions. And those same families are least able to afford to pay for home improvements.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Group, urged the Government to prioritise measures to
completely eradicate fuel poverty. Investing more in retrofitting poor quality
housing stock means we can help lift some of the poorest households out of fuel
poverty as well as create and sustain thousands of skilled green jobs in the
energy efficiency industry. These range from high level engineering and
manufacturing, to lower skilled installation and advice provision. This is also
about creating new opportunities for young people to get them into the kind of
training and apprenticeships that will help deliver real social change in a
green economy – with actual jobs at the end of it.