Future governments will be compelled to take steps to deal with fuel poverty, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has said.
Under proposals published on July 22nd, there will be a legal obligation for Westminster to improve as many fuel-poor homes as is reasonably practicable. These homes’ energy rating should be increased to Band C by 2030.
Reducing the number of fuel-poor homes in the UK will be a government priority, and although the number of households in fuel poverty has been declining continually in recent years, there are still 2.3 million households with low incomes and high gas and electricity bills in the UK, with only 5% of these reaching Band C or higher.
Band C homes’ energy bills can be as much as £1,000 a year cheaper than those in Band G or F, while Band D homes’ energy bills can be £900 a year cheaper than those in the most inefficient houses.
Accordingly, the government is also proposing requiring future governments to bring as many fuel-poor households as is reasonably practicable to Band D by 2025 and Band E by 2020, so there will be a consistent reduction in the levels of fuel poverty in the UK.
Certain groups will be particularly targeted by the government – the Cutting the Cost of Keeping Warm consultation focuses on low-income households that do not have a mains gas connection and households with vulnerable residents who may suffer health problems from the cold weather, while Insulation on Prescription trials, which can lead to home improvements worth as much as £5,000, will be targeted at people with health conditions who live in draughty and inefficient homes.
Private tenants will also see their households become more efficient, as it will become illegal to let rental properties with an Energy Performance Certificate of under Band E from 2018, unless landlords have demonstrated that they have made all reasonable improvements with all the funding options and subsidies available.
Furthermore, the government has confirmed that the level of Energy Company Obligation activity directed at vulnerable and low-income houses will remain the same, with around 26,000 households receiving approximately £520 million in total every year. This scheme, which was set to conclude in 2015, has now been extended until 2017, but its Carbon Saving element has been amended in order to reduce gas and electricity bills by £30 to £35.
Since 2010, almost 400,000 vulnerable households have received assistance through the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation, while the Warm Home Discount saw over 2 million low-income residences (including a million pensioners) reduce their gas and electricity bills by £135.
Ed Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said the proposals represent a “radical shift” from old policies, which failed to deal with the root causes of fuel poverty but simply were “tinkering at the edges”.
He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to vulnerable residences by confirming that the Energy Company Obligation will continue and has been extended for another two years, which he said will assist an additional 500,000 households.
Derek Lickorish MBE, Chairman of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, said the new fuel poverty targets should “galvanise” activity across the UK. He said he is looking forwards to working alongside the government as it delivers its fuel poverty strategies.
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