Cold Homes Week - aka Preventable Misery Week

How the UK could end the shame of fuel poverty

3 February 2014

If you’ve ever had your central heating break down in the middle of winter (even a mild one like this one) you’ll have had a brief insight into the lives of millions of your fellow citizens. The shift to heating and living in just one room, the difficulty of keeping warm even with extra layers, the challenge of washing yourself and your clothes and getting things dry, the cancelling of social visits.

For a week or so you end up living like the fuel poor – where the struggle to keep warm is a more or less permanent feature of life at home in winter.

But for you there is an end in sight to your misery – a plumber is on the way. The £25 a week cost of running an electric fan heater in a feeble attempt to keep at least one room habitable in waking hours is annoying but ultimately affordable. And then the misery lifts. You avoid the long-term impacts on your physical and mental health, and your children only have one week when their schoolwork was disrupted by the family’s one-room living.

Now there could be an end in sight for the millions of people for whom this struggle is their winter routine and this misery their winter normality. That is the vision of Cold Homes Week and why CSE is proud to be a member of the Energy Bill Revolution.

cold homes week

The only way to tackle fuel poverty in the long term – particularly with the prospect of rising energy prices – is to tackle the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing. We have some of the least efficient housing in Europe, meaning that far too much heat is wasted from our homes. We can, quite literally, insulate ourselves from the problem of fuel poverty by bringing our homes up to modern standards of thermal comfort. We can prevent the misery.

We already work hard to make the most of existing government and energy company grants and schemes to help people insulate their homes and cut fuel bills. But these are nowhere near enough to match the scale of the problem.

As a member of the Energy Bill Revolution, we’re asking the Government to use the money raised by carbon taxes (the European Emissions Trading Scheme and the Carbon Floor Price) to fund mass insulation of UK homes. Every year, the Treasury makes around £4 billion in carbon taxes – we are asking them to use this money to bring 9 out of 10 households out of fuel poverty.

There is, for example, enough carbon tax revenue to treat 600,000 fuel poor households every year, providing each of them with a grant worth on average £6,500 to upgrade their homes. This would reduce their energy bills by an average £310 a year. Plus it would hugely reduce the country’s carbon emissions – which was the aim of the carbon taxes in the first place.

The Energy Bill Revolution has declared this week Cold Homes Week, so we’re making an extra effort to highlight this idea to our local MPs around Bristol and Somerset, the media and the public.

We are contacting all of the MPs in our local area to ask them to support this proposal. If you would like to do the same, it’s easy to send your MP a message through www.energybillrevolution.org. And you can support the campaign on Twitter using #coldhomesweek.

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