Fuel Poverty: what is it, what causes it and how can it be remedied?

fuel poverty

A household was previously defined as being in fuel poverty if more than 10% of its income was spent on fuel. While this still remains the case for Scotland, in England it is now measured using an assessment tool called the Low-Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator, which determines that a household is fuel poor if:

  • it has required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level);
  • and to spend that amount, it would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line, 60% of the median UK household income.

According to statistics published by the Government for England in 2016

  • the average fuel poverty gap (that is the amount needed to meet the fuel poverty threshold) was estimated at £326
  • fuel poverty is highest in the private rented sector at 19.4%, compared to those in owner occupied properties at 7.7%
  • property age is an important factor, with the average fuel poverty gap at £863 for a pre-1850 building, compared to the newest builds at £226.

Causes of fuel poverty

The drivers of fuel poverty are many and varied. Clearly, rising energy prices and poor insulation performance have a cumulative effect on fuel poverty statistics. As will regional differences, such as the age of the housing stock, as well as climatic and income variability across the country.

Age, employment status, reliability of income source, single or multiple person occupancy are some of the social factors that may influence fuel poverty status.

Finding solutions

Improving the energy efficiency of a property can act significantly towards reducing fuel poverty. Simple steps, such as draught proofing and improving insulation in roofs and walls can bring a household back from the fuel poverty threshold. Where possible, a more disciplined approach to energy use in the home will also bring benefits.

For those on low incomes, suffering disabilities or who are otherwise disadvantaged, the Government offers schemes to improve home insulation, and can provide financial assistance to help with energy bills. Householders may also be eligible for help from their energy providers under the Affordable Warmth Obligation.

Upgrading home heating appliances is a key strategy for householders seeking to reduce their energy bills. The efficiency and convenience of electric heating have been vastly improved in recent years and modern appliances offer significant improvement over that of outdated, poorly controlled electric heating systems.

Haverland’s oil-filled electric radiator range offers fully programmable heating control for your household. For example, ULTRAD knows when someone’s in a room, and heats up to a comfortable temperature. When the room’s not in use, ULTRAD will automatically lower its temperature, reducing energy consumption. Choose your ideal radiator for your space, here.