What is Fuel Poverty?

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It is a common misconception that when we talk about ‘fuel poverty’ we are talking about people who can’t afford to heat their homes or pay their energy bills. Yes, it is true that this is the reality for many, and in Bradford, it is considered that in more than one in every ten homes people have to seriously consider what they can do without (often food) if they are to keep warm. The other reality is that cold kills and that it is our vulnerable elderly who often suffer most as a result.

The definition states that a household is said to be in fuel poverty if: “They have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level) and were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.”

Key factors that often contribute to fuel poverty are:

  • The energy efficiency of the property (here is the trap) as in many homes where disposable income is in short supply it is hard (if not impossible) to find the money for decent insulation, let alone double glazing or an energy-efficient boiler, so the money spent on the heat in less prosperous homes is often disproportionately wasteful, as choices around basic necessities have to take priority; this unavoidable waste is obviously also bad for the environment too.
  • The cost of energy is a major factor and something that can also be positively addressed through more efficient use of wind, solar and other new clean and green technologies, though generally, the initial capital outlay is far too great for individual homeowners to consider. Not so for larger organisations and again quite possible by bringing groups of likeminded people together through community energy co-operatives.
  • Another issue with fuel costs is that many people pay energy companies more that they need to as they are not on the best deals, once again it tends to be those busier households and those who are less internet-savvy who end up with the worst deal – an hour or so of research can potentially save the average family hundreds of pounds in a year. Family and/or friends can always help if people aren’t sure where to look, I recently helped my 87-year-old dad reduce his monthly utility bill outgoings by just over £40 a month! Is there someone you might help?
  • Household income, is obviously a major contributor to any householder expenditure and there are great concerns that the hangover from the current Coronavirus situation is going to create a whole new wave of financial challenges, challenges that will have a significant impact on homes the world over, that said there is no doubt that if we all do our bit to work with renewables and reduce waste what we have will go much further and that this, in turn, supports both people and planet.

For more information about what is being done to help fight against fuel poverty here in Bradford see: https://www.bradford.gov.uk/environment/climate-change/fuel-poverty/

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