Fuel poverty is a major social crisis in the UK. There are over five million households in fuel poverty needing to spend more than 10% of their income on energy in order to keep warm. This number will increase significantly if gas prices rise as the Government expects.
This fact-file compares fuel poverty and energy efficiency in the UK to 15 other European countries with comparable levels of prosperity and heating need. It ranks these countries against six key indicators for which consistent and recent European data are available to assess the energy efficiency of the UK’s homes. The UK is ranked lowest for energy (or fuel) poverty out of 13 western European countries and near the bottom of the other league tables on affordability of space heating (14 out of 15), share of household expenditure spent on energy (11 out of 13), homes in poor state of repair (11 out of 15), thermal performance (6 out of 8), and the gap between current thermal performance and what the optimal level of insulation should be in each country (7 out of 8). Overall, no other country of the 16 assessed performs as poorly as the UK across the range of indicators.
The UK ranks so low despite the fact that it has amongst the lowest gas and electricity prices in Europe and relatively high household incomes compared to the other countries. And yet it has the highest rate of fuel poverty and amongst the highest rate of excess winter deaths. In this context, the poor energy efficiency of our housing stock emerges as the main cause of these problems. David Cameron recently pledged that he wanted the UK to become “the most energy efficient country in Europe”. This ambition is all the more laudable and appropriate because this fact-file finds that presently, the UK can only be characterised as the ‘cold man of Europe’.
The Energy Bill Revolution is calling for the carbon tax every household pays via their bills to be used to make UK homes highly energy efficient, prioritising the homes of the fuel poor. There is enough carbon tax revenue to fulfil the Prime Minister’s ambition. It is enough to end fuel poverty and significantly reduce carbon emissions. It is also one of the best ways to generate growth and jobs in the UK economy.
You can download the fact-file here, and we encourage you to share your views on it. You can also head over to the Energy Bill Revolution website to read the accompanying press release from the EBR and Age UK.