We recently joined National Energy Action (NEA) as member of their business supporters group. The NEA is a national charity aiming to end fuel poverty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is thought that around 4 million people in the UK cannot afford to live in a warm, dry house. At VeriSmart, we believe that affordable, reliable warmth is a basic human right and something that many of us take for granted. As the mercury drops tonight and we have heavy snow forecast for tomorrow, I am sitting here feeling extremely grateful for my warm, cosy house. For many people tonight, the choice will be to keep the heating on and fall further into fuel debt or not have the heating on at all. The former may lead to anxiety and depression and the latter to ill health, poor educational attainment and social exclusion.
Warm Homes Campaign
Last month, I travelled to London for an NEA reception at the House of Commons, where the theme was a “Fairer Energy Future for All.” This also marked the launch of their Warm Homes Campaign. In the campaign report “Bridging the Gap’, the three main causes of fuel poverty are cited as low income, energy inefficiency and high energy prices. Nearly half of the fuel poor households in the analysis were in full or part time work and retired households are now the least likely to be in fuel poverty.
Recent fuel price hikes and Brexit have also had a negative affect. The fall in the pound has impacted import costs and therefore led to an increase in prices, which has been passed on to the consumer. This has had a big impact on those families on or near the poverty line. The poorest 10% of the country spend 10% of their income on energy. So price increases of between 5 and 15% have a big impact! This is further compounded when families become ‘disengaged from the energy market’ and end up on an expensive standard variable tariff. A survey of 1000 low income consumers found that 73% had not switched supplier in the last two years. The reasons for this are many; lack of internet access, debt, poor credit history or a preference to use a pre-pay meter to manage their budget.
Energy Inefficient housing
A key contributing factor is that those at risk of fuel poverty often live in poorly insulated houses with old, inefficient heating systems. Low income families cannot afford the capital improvements necessary to improve the efficiency of the property and therefore the have to pay more to heat their house. Those who are reliant on electric heating are often more at risk. They are often living in private rented accomodation and social housing. We feel passionately, that when people have to use electric heating, they should be empowered to use it in the best way for their personal circumstances. In many cases, tenants will need support from their landlords to provide the most appropriate type of heating for their property. These should be programmable, permanent installed and on the best available electric tariff. If you feel you need help with this, please contact our office.