Coalition ditches fuel poverty target

The coalition government is scrapping the target of eradicating fuel poverty in England. It has released a framework for future action on tackling fuel poverty, following an independent review of fuel poverty (led by John Hills of the London School of Economics) together with a subsequent consultation.

Key points

  • A new definition of fuel poverty will be adopted, which ministers say is designed to ensure that support is targeted at 'those who need it most'. A household will be defined as 'fuel poor' if: (a) its total income is below the poverty line (taking into account energy costs); and (b) its energy costs are higher than typical.
  • Fuel poverty is currently defined as a household needing to spend 10 per cent or more of its income on energy a year – a definition, the Hill review said, that captures some rich households while overlooking others struggling with their energy costs.
  • The new indicator of fuel poverty also includes a 'fuel poverty gap', which is the difference between a fuel-poor household’s energy costs and what they would need to be in order for that household to escape fuel poverty. This provides a measure of the depth of fuel poverty that a household is experiencing.
  • Because fuel poverty is a long-term, structural problem, the coalition government says that trying to eradicate it is 'the wrong type of target'. The coalition no longer aims to end fuel poverty, and instead will focus on improving the energy efficiency of the homes of those in fuel poverty. This will, it says, provide a 'more sensible' measure of progress in tackling the problem.

SourceFuel Poverty: A Framework for Future Action, Cm 8673, Department for Energy and Climate Change, TSO
LinksFramework | Annex | Hansard | DECC press release | Inside Housing report

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