Tackling fuel poverty

A persistently cold home causes misery, ill-health and social exclusion. Currently more than 5 million households in the UK can’t afford to keep adequately warm in winter, often as a result of poor insulation standards and inefficient heating in their homes

Tackling fuel poverty

Ensuring people are meeting their needs for affordable warmth and other energy services is central to CSE's understanding of sustainable energy. Which is why tackling fuel poverty is one of our core objectives and a feature of many of our projects.

In May 2014, we won the Ashden Award for Reducing Fuel Poverty, a new award that recognises our outstanding contribution to tackling fuel poverty in the UK. You can read about this here, and view the video below which Ashden made about our work. 

A household is said to be in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel to maintain a reasonable standard of warmth (though this definition is likely to change when the Hills Fuel Poverty Review publishes its final findings. Read more about this here).

Various factors work together to drag a household into fuel poverty, including the income of the household, their health-related heating needs, the costs they pay for fuel, and the energy performance of their home. 

Particularly at risk of fuel poverty are older people – especially those living on their own, often in larger family homes – lone parents, disabled people, single unemployed people, and families where adult members are either unemployed or working on a low income.

And it’s not just a matter of being cold and the associated poor physical and mental health. People in fuel-poor households commonly suffer debts to fuel companies and deterioration of their home through damp and condensation-related mould growth.

Because of this CSE’s fuel poverty projects are multi-pronged. We refer households onto insulation schemes or programmes such as Warm Front that provide new heating systems. We work with social services and the benefits system to ensure that households are in receipt of the benefits they are entitled to (elderly people are particularly reluctant to claim). And we find the cheapest energy suppler for them, and see that they are on the right tariff. 

Here's a short (4min) film called 'Understanding Fuel Poverty' we made for a project 'Coping with Cold' funded by the Nationwide Foundation:

Fuel poverty was only acknowledged as a specific condition by the Government in 2001, but CSE has been working on the issue for much longer. Indeed, one of our trustees, Dr Brenda Boardman, is one of the UK’s foremost authorities on the subject and her book ‘Fuel Poverty - From Cold Homes to Affordable Warmth’ (Belhaven Press 1991, ISBN1-85293-139-6, out of print and difficult to find) has been described as "probably the seminal work on fuel poverty".

We continue to be centrally involved in research into fuel poverty to expose the particular experiences of fuel poor households, understand the impact of fuel poverty interventions, improve programme targeting at local level with the Fuel Poverty Indicator we developed with the University of Bristol (click here for project profile).  

We are involved in a variety of anti-fuel poverty forums and groups, including the National Right to Fuel Campaign, DECC's Fuel Poverty Methodology Group, the Energy Efficiency Partnership’s Fuel Poverty Strategy Group, and the Public Utilities Access Forum (PUAF).

We're also proud to be a signatory to the Energy Bill Revolution, an alliance of children's and older people's charities, health and disability groups, environment groups, consumer groups, trade unions, businesses, politicians and public figures.