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Energy Policy,Families,Fuel Poverty

Reaching fuel poor families

TCSFamilies in fuel poverty are an important policy issue.  ACE research has shown that there are currently 2.23 million children, in 1.08 million families, in fuel poverty (close to half the total number of households, as newly defined) in England. Fuel poverty has severe and long-lasting effects, including on children’s respiratory problems, mental health, hospital admission rates, developmental status, educational attainment and emotional well-being, among other impacts.

Last year, ACE estimated that only 2.9% of energy assistance budgets would reach fuel poor families.  The recent “Behind Cold Doors” report by The Children’s Society showed that 1.9 million children living in poverty in the UK were in families that missed out on a Warm Home Discount (a key form of fuel poverty assistance) in 2013/14. For these reasons, take-up of fuel poverty assistance among families is a key concern for policy-makers, service providers and energy companies.

In this context, Eaga Charitable Trust is funding The Children’s Society and the Association for the Conservation of Energy to carry out the project “Reaching fuel poor families: Informing new approaches to promoting take-up of fuel poverty assistance among families with children”.  This research will review a range of fuel poverty schemes aimed at families, especially those run through Children’s Centres.  It will also involve an in-depth evaluation of one specific scheme based in Mortimer House Children’s Centre, a centre in Bradford run by The Children’s Society.

The project will provide recommendations for this specific scheme, and inform a potential roll-out to other centres.  It will also draw lessons of broader relevance to fuel poverty schemes aimed at families, to help in the design and delivery of effective programmes in future.

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Domestic Energy Consumption,Energy Saving,Heating

“Dragon-breath and snow-melt”: New article on know-how for keeping warm

What skills and know-how do people use to keep warm at home?  Where does this knowledge come from?  These questions are addressed in a new article by ACE researcher Sarah Royston, published in the journal Energy Research and Social Science.

Keeping warm at home means managing heat flows – making sure that heat is where it is needed, when it is needed.  In doing this, we interact with a wide range of objects, appliances and building features, from long-johns to loft insulation, and from hair-dryers to heat pumps.

Managing heat flows is something we do almost all the time, often without thinking much about it (by opening a window, or putting on a jumper, for example).  But many of the things we do to keep warm involve some kind of practical knowledge or know-how.  For example, we might know how to adjust the settings on a storage heater, programme the central heating,  or light a fire.  Equally we might know how to find and block draughts, or fashion an improvised bed-warmer from an old sock filled with rice.

This article explores the many kinds of know-how involved in keeping homes warm, and how these are learned through experience.  The senses are important here – for example, we might use visible “dragon breath” as an indicator of cold.  The article also looks at how changes such as moving house or having children can affect know-how, and reflects on what these ideas might mean for research, policy and practice on sustainable energy use.

You can read the full article (currently free) here.

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DECC,Energy Performance Certificates,Fuel Poverty,Fuel Poverty Advisory Group

Ending cold homes

Consumer Futures commissioned ACE Research to model the cost and impact of introducing ambitious new fuel poverty targets. This new report presents the results of the research, as introduced by William Baker, Head of Fuel Poverty Policy at Consumer Futures, below.

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Energy Bill Revolution,Fuel Poverty

Burning Cash Day: 14th February

In the context of a growing political debate regarding the best way to cut energy bills, this briefing shows that a family could be wasting around 41% of their gas every year if they live in a typical fuel poor home, due to a low standard of energy efficiency. They could save 41% of their gas costs each year by installing energy efficiency measures. There are over 6.7 million homes in England (one in three) which have very poor levels of energy efficiency, representing an E, F or G rating on an Energy Performance Certificate. In England, 1.41 million fuel poor homes (more than half) fall into this category.

If a family turn their heating on at the start of October, then that 41% saving is the equivalent of all their gas costs from the 14th of February until the next October. If they installed efficiency measures, it would be like having free heating and hot water from the 14th of February onwards. We could say that everything they spend on gas after that date is wasted money – so the 14th of February is ‘Burning Cash Day’.

The savings from energy efficiency vary between different homes, so every home has its own Burning Cash Day. Even in a home which has an average level of energy efficiency (including at least some loft and cavity wall insulation) the family could still save 25% of their gas bill, through additional measures. This means that Burning Cash Day for this typical home is the 22nd of March.

The Energy Bill Revolution campaign is calling for major Government investment to provide energy efficiency measures for free for people in fuel poverty, and to provide subsidies for everyone else. It is proposed that this is paid for by recycling revenues from two carbon taxes that are paid by consumers – the European Emissions Trading Scheme and the Carbon Price Floor. Over the next 15 years the Government will raise an average of £4 billion every year in carbon taxes; this is enough revenue to insulate to a high degree an average of 600,000 fuel poor homes every year. In time, every household could benefit, and see major reductions in their energy bills.

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Fuel Poverty

Fuel Poverty: 2014 update

In early 2013, ACE Research and the Energy Bill Revolution published a fact-file on families and fuel poverty. This new briefing serves to update last year’s headline figures for the number of households, people, families, and children in fuel poverty to 2014. It does so for the UK, as well as for the devolved nations where appropriate.

There are now two high-level fuel poverty definitions in use in the UK. The original definition, that of a household having to spend over 10% of its disposable income to pay for adequate energy services, has (with minor variations) been retained in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Although the Department of Energy and Climate Change still report fuel poverty in England against this definition, it has now formally adopted a new definition of fuel poverty in England, based on the recommendations of the Hills Review into the measurement of fuel poverty.

This briefing provides estimates for the level of fuel poverty (under the original definition) at the start of 2014 for the UK and its nations. In addition, it provides an estimate for fuel poverty under the new definition in England. The following factors make a 2014 update on last year’s estimates pertinent:

  • Energy suppliers announced significant price rises at the end of 2013. Some of these price rises have been claimed by suppliers to be smaller than they otherwise would have been, as they have pre-empted Government reductions to ‘green levies’. Government proposals for reducing levies were made subsequent to the price rises at the end of 2013;
  • The rate at which energy bill-reducing measures are being delivered slowed down considerably in 2013 compared to previous years;
  • And average real earnings have remained largely flat

Energy prices, energy performance of housing and incomes are the three factors that together determine the level, depth, and nature of fuel poverty, whichever definition is used. The estimates in this briefing compare the state of fuel poverty now to that of 12 months ago, and to 2011, the year for which the latest official estimates of fuel poverty are available.

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Best Practice,Buildings,Energy Efficiency Finance,Evaluation

Financing energy efficiency in buildings: an international review of best practice and innovation

ACE Research, in partnership with Joanne Wade, was commissioned by the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (eceee) and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) to identify and review a wide range of energy efficiency finance schemes from around the world for the World Energy Council (WEC). The research is part of a suite which informed 2013’s World Energy Congress in Daegu, South Korea, this October.

You can download the full report including national case studies here. An overview of what we addressed in the review follows:

Energy savings are among the fastest, highest impacting and most cost-effective ways of reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Low cost energy efficiency measures have long been regarded as the ‘low-hanging fruit’ in delivering a clean energy economy.

However, the groundswell of general interest observed does not in itself produce specific, bankable energy efficiency investment opportunities without other factors being in place. Even with high and volatile energy prices, energy security issues and awareness of climate change policy drivers, there is a mixed picture of actual demand for energy efficiency from both private and public sector clients. Despite the proven cost-effective opportunity to reduce energy consumption, a significant proportion of the energy efficiency improvement potential is not being realised.

A key reason for this relates to the financing of energy efficiency. Barriers to financing mean that, in the past, energy efficiency has not been able to attract significant amounts of private capital.

These barriers take a range of well-recognised forms. The Buildings Performance Institute Europe reported in 20101 that information failure, high subsidies, lack of technical expertise, uncertainty over savings, and externalities still characterise the energy efficiency market, while ‘split incentives’ discourage both building owners and occupiers from investing in energy efficiency measures if direct benefits are not perceived. Financial barriers include the initial cost barrier, high transaction costs, long payback time, and risk exposure. Furthermore, lack of knowledge among finance providers about energy efficiency prevents customers from accessing capital, and the absence of standardised measurement and verification practice further increases transaction costs.

To examine these and other barriers in greater detail, eight case study schemes – from a range of different economies and contexts, targeting different sectors and employing different financing methods – were selected for systematic evaluation and to understand how such barriers are addressed in a wide range of different contexts – covering schemes in China, Estonia, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand and the USA.

The analysis of the case study finance schemes encompasses a comprehensive barrier analysis, highlighting the ways in which schemes have addressed and overcome typical barriers to energy efficiency take-up and finance provision. The barriers identified can be identified as falling into four distinct groups: Finance; Institutions and Stakeholders; Measures and Buildings; and Consumers and End-Users.

Given the diversity of the case studies assessed, and the breadth of the World Energy Council’s membership, recommendations for decision-makers and practitioners in energy efficiency finance are necessarily non-prescriptive. In order to accommodate this breadth and diversity, we highlight broad contextual considerations – in addition to the barriers analysed – that must be taken into account in the design and operation of any finance scheme. These relate to the nature of: political, legal and institutional contexts; social and demographic context; economic and industrial contexts; the built environment; and climate and geography.

To facilitate systematic thought about finance scheme design and operation for a wide variety of different purposes and in a broad range of contexts, we provide an energy efficiency finance scheme ‘decisions map’. This takes the form of a matrix containing conclusions and recommendations for each of the main barriers, mapped out across each of the areas of context. It illustrates the importance of a thorough approach to energy efficiency finance which builds on the vast wealth of experience already accumulated from around the world, and is designed to facilitate this type of approach.

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DECC,Updated Emissions Projections

Explore how predicted carbon savings are evolving

Every year in September/October, the Department of Energy and Climate Change issues its latest CO2 emissions projections. Presently, these project emissions forward to 2030. This tool compares the savings projected to come from policies which reduce CO2 emissions in the electricity generation sector, as well as policies which reduce emissions in the end-use sectors (agriculture and waste; commercial and public services; industry; residential; transport). Please note that this tool is not intended for use on its own. It should be used in conjunction with the reports and annexes published alonside each year’s UEP that is compared in this tool (2011, 2012 and 2013). Links to these resources are provided in the downloadable tool, including instructions on how to use it. What this tool enables you to do swiftly is to pinpoint differences between UEPs and more easily find the assumptions underlying any changes in the accompanying UEP resources.

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Demographics,ECEEE,Green Deal,Housing

ACE Research papers well-received at Europe’s largest energy efficiency conference

ACE Research presented two papers at the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy‘s biennial Summer Study a fortnight ago. One investigates the energy efficiency implications of an ageing population in the context of constricted housing supply. The other examines the history of the Green Deal’s development to date. Continue reading to find the abstracts, along with links to the full papers and their presentations.

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Energy Bill Revolution,Energy Efficiency,Europe,Fuel Poverty

Fact-file: The Cold Man of Europe

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.

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Energy Bill Revolution,Energy Bills,Families,Fuel Poverty

Fact-file: Families and fuel poverty

It is widely recognised that fuel poverty has severe effects on some of the most vulnerable people in society. However, while attention has focussed on older people in fuel poverty, families and children have been relatively neglected.

Channel 4 © 2013

Channel 4 © 2013

Until now, the scale of the problem for families has been poorly understood. Some evidence comes from a Barnardo’s survey in which over 90 per cent of their staff said they worked with families in fuel debt. To pay their energy bills, many families were cutting back on essentials such as heating and food.

It is clear that fuel poverty can have severe and life-long effects on children. Studies show that long-term exposure to a cold home can affect weight gain in babies and young children, increase hospital admission rates for children and increase the severity and frequency of asthmatic symptoms. Children in cold homes are more than twice as likely to suffer from breathing problems, and those in damp and mouldy homes are up to three times more likely to suffer from coughing, wheezing and respiratory illness, compared to those with warm, dry homes.

What’s more, struggling with high energy bills can impact adversely on the mental health of family members. Fuel poverty may even affect children’s education, if health problems keep them off school, or a cold home means there is no warm, separate room to do their homework.

It is vital that we understand the problem of fuel poverty for parents and children, and that future policies provide the support that these vulnerable families urgently need. This fact-file, prepared with the support of the Energy Bill Revolution, Barnado’s and Save the Children, provides a snapshot of families and (dependent) children in fuel poverty at the start of this year. It provides high-level estimates for the UK, England and the Devolved Nations. It then goes on to explore the nature and composition of fuel poverty amongst families and children, specifically in England. The fact-file and other resources can be downloaded below.

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