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Fuel Poverty News

Coalition calls for end to fuel poverty
17 Mar 2010

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A major coalition of anti-poverty, energy, environmental and health campaigning organisations are today launching a charter of measures needed to eradicate the scandal of fuel poverty. The campaigners are calling for the UK Government and political parties to commit to making all fuel poor homes as energy efficient as a home built today.

The coalition is warning that although the Government has taken some welcome steps, its target to end fuel poverty in England by 2016 will be impossible to meet under its current strategy. The organisations are highlighting that fuel poverty levels could in fact continue to rise to a record high.

Expensive energy prices have led to extremely high fuel poverty levels and the hardship this causes. An estimated 6.6 million UK households, of which 4.6 million are in England, are struggling to afford to heat and power their homes. Many are resorting to cutting back on heating or other essentials in order to make ends meet, which could put their health at risk. This is particularly worrying as in 2008/9 there were 36,700 excess winter deaths, an increase of almost half on the previous year.

The coalition is calling on the Government to live up to its promise to end fuel poverty, by radically overhauling its fuel poverty strategy. The coalition members include: Age Concern and Help the Aged, the Association for the Conservation of Energy, the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Child Poverty Action Group, Consumer Focus, Disability Alliance, Federation for Private Residents’ Association, Friends of the Earth, MacMillan Cancer Support, NCT, National Energy Action, National Federation of Women’s Institutes, National Pensioners Convention, National Right to Fuel Campaign and Unison.

Jonathan Stearn, energy expert for Consumer Focus, said:

‘It should be a right, not a privilege, for everybody to have a warm, dry home that they can afford to heat. The main political parties have all exchanged rhetoric on the importance of ending fuel poverty but what we need now is concerted action. Any political party serious about ending the hardship millions of fuel poor households are facing must commit to make fuel poor homes as energy efficient as those built today ’

The coalition is worried about the confusing and uncoordinated range of Government energy efficiency schemes and their lack of measurable energy efficiency targets. Unless an improved national energy efficiency scheme is introduced, many more vulnerable pensioners, families and disabled people will be pushed into fuel poverty.

A measure of any political party’s commitment to tackling fuel poverty must be a commitment to introduce a scheme to make homes as energy efficient as a house built today. This could reduce energy bills by up to 70% and cut carbon emissions by as much as 59 per cent. Although such a scheme would require significant investment, it would help lift millions of the poorest households out of fuel poverty and at the same time dramatically cut CO2 emissions, create more than 35,000 jobs, and put over £6 billion back into the economy.

The key calls in the fuel poverty charter urge the Government to commit to:

1.Produce a fully-costed revised fuel poverty plan, tailored to meet the 2016 target, with a radically improved national energy efficiency scheme at its heart. This scheme should improve heating and insulation standards of fuel poor homes to those of new homes and bring together the current raft of energy efficiency initiatives.

2.Take account of high energy prices in benefits, pension and tax credit levels and make sure all those eligible claim their entitlements. Furthermore, extend winter fuel payments to households eligible to cold weather payments and terminally ill people, to ensure they can afford their energy bills.

3.Take all possible steps to reduce household energy prices and tackle unfair differences across payment types which leave the poorest customers paying more for their energy.

4.Oblige energy companies to provide ‘social price discounts’ to low income and fuel poor consumers – which provide the cheapest energy rates.


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Source: Consumer Focus