The UK government is proposing to adopt a new way of measuring fuel poverty in England after an independent review earlier this year.
The review led by John Hills of the London School of Economics, which was published in March this year, concluded that fuel poverty is a serious national problem and only likely to get worse.
But Hills also concluded that the current definition of fuel poverty is not particularly helpful and a better definition would enable help to be better targeted at the most in need.
Currently, fuel poverty is defined as households that spend more than 10% of their income on energy costs, which covers some 5.5 million households at the most recent estimate.
Now the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) wants to adopt a new definition based on the framework suggested by Hills’ review, which includes two indicators – how many individuals are affected by fuel poverty and the ‘depth’ of the problem, or how badly they are affected.
According to Hills, using the new definition would put nearly 8 million people into the bracket of fuel poverty in 2.7 million households across the UK, as of 2009 when the most complete figures are available.
DECC are now consulting on the new definition and how it should be aligned with the target for eradicating fuel poverty by 2016 as laid out in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act of 2000.
“With the number of people living in fuel poverty projected to rise, the time has come to go back to basics to ensure we are doing all we can,” commented Energy Secretary Ed Davey yesterday in a statement.
“This means defining and measuring fuel poverty in the right way and working up a new fuel poverty strategy so that we can target our available resources where they are needed most.”
But the government was at pains to point out that the consultation does not signal a change in the fuel poverty target.
DECC says it will publish its decisions based on the consultation early next year along with an updated fuel poverty strategy.
“[We will] publish an updated strategy in the New Year, which will set out the final decision on the new definition of fuel poverty, our intentions on the target and will be an opportunity to set out a refreshed plan for tackling fuel poverty, to ensure we the Government is using its resources as effectively as possible,” added Davey in his statement.
The consultation is now open for comments until November 30.
For further information:
More to benefit from Warm Front scheme, says UK government (7-Sept)
Fuel poverty serious national problem, says independent UK report (16-Mar)
London could face £500 million shortfall in fuel poverty funds (20-Jan)
UK price rises could increase fuel poverty to 6.6 million homes (16-Aug 2011)
19 September 2012