Hiding the true scale of fuel poverty

28th Mar 2022


Last Sunday, while interviewed by the BBC, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was asked for his assessment on the levels of fuel poverty following the recent record price increases. He studiously avoided answering the question.

He could have echoed Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, who had earlier predicted an unprecedented increase in the level of fuel poverty or he could have told us the truth that in England, using the new measure of fuel poverty adopted by his Government, there would be little or no impact upon fuel poverty numbers. Before you read that sentence again, yes, it’s true, according to the official method of calculating fuel poverty in England, doubling of energy bills will not increase the level of fuel poverty.

That’s outrageous you might think; you may be thinking that I must be wrong. It is outrageous and according to our friends at National Energy Action (NEA), I’m not wrong either.

According to NEA, the new fuel poverty definition of Low Income Low Energy Efficiency (LILEE) in England only, suggests households with an income below the poverty line, living in a home with an EPC lower than ‘C’ are considered fuel poor. So this definition is not sensitive to the type of increase we have seen in energy prices. Bizarrely, Rishi Sunak could have answered that the doubling of energy bills has no impact upon fuel poverty – and he would be correct, for England that is.

Now we all know this is nonsense. Energy bills cannot increase this way without also leading to massive surge in fuel poverty levels. In Scotland and Wales, the official measure, comparing energy bills with disposable income, captures this but not England. NEA are rightly adopting their measure to use across the whole of the UK. They reckon the correct figure from April will be close to 6.5 million households, other experts reckon by October we could be talking about 10 million.

Warm words are simply not enough at this stage. And hiding the number of fuel poor households isn’t a great look either.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive


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