London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — October 6, 2008 – The number of U.K. households in fuel poverty increased to approximately 3.5 million in 2006, up by about 40 percent from 2005, according to the government’s latest fuel poverty strategy progress report.
Of these almost 80 percent were classified as vulnerable, i.e. containing an elderly person, a child or someone who is disabled or suffering from a long term illness.
Fuel poverty is defined as needing to spend more than 10 percent of the household income on fuel and in particular for heating the home to an adequate level.
This increase in fuel poverty is attributed principally to increases in consumer energy prices. The overall cost of energy to domestic consumers rose by 22 percent in real terms between 2005 and 2006, with gas prices rising by 29 percent and electricity prices rising by 19 percent.
Furthermore these numbers are projected to have increased subsequently. In England in 2006 the number of households in fuel poverty was estimated around 2.4 million and is projected to have increased by 0.7 million households in 2007 and a further 0.5 million during the current year.
In the report the government says it has in place a range of programs and measures to address rising energy prices, as well as the other two main factors leading to fuel poverty, namely home energy efficiency and household income. This includes a £1 billion package for energy efficiency improvements in homes and winter fuel payments to people aged 60 and over. The energy companies also have obligations to spend £2.8 billion over the next three years helping customers save energy, and the government is proposing legislation to require a further £910 million commitment towards making homes more energy efficient.
“Programs are in place, funding is available and we will continue to do everything we can to help people save money and save energy, both this winter and for the years ahead,” said environment secretary Hilary Benn, who following the release of the report was set to hold meetings with energy suppliers and the home insulation industry to discuss how to speed up work on increasing energy efficiency in U.K. homes.
The report says that of the 2.4 million fuel poor households in England, an estimated 750,000 could be lifted from fuel poverty by switching to the best supplier deal available to them.