Fuel Poverty Needs Action
During my four year’s as the Chair of the National Right to Fuel Campaign (NRFC) the number of people suffering from fuel poverty in the UK has more than doubled. Increases in the cost of living and stagnant incomes have a part to play in this. The underlying problem is the UK’s poor housing stock and outdated energy infrastructure. Germany, Denmark and Holland all have higher energy costs and colder winters, but nearly no one lives in fuel poverty in those countries. This is why I am very proud to be relaunching the NRFC’s campaign for a national energy efficiency roll out.
In 2009, we called on the Government to scrap its piecemeal approach to energy efficiency and bring all of its resource into one centrally funded and locally delivered programme. In 2014, we make the same call on all of the political parties – a call supported by a recent poll of a thousand households, a clear majority of who identified energy efficiency as the greatest priority for the UK’s infrastructure plan.
What households are telling us is that the next Government should get much bolder about its approach to energy efficiency. Asking energy companies to help households to upgrade their boilers and dolling out small amounts of money for community programmes that encourage households to replace their light bulbs, just is not going to do it.
Instead of this bits and pieces approach politicians must be ambitious, bringing in a national programme, delivered area by area and focused on making radical upgrades to the efficiency of every home by 2020.
Our calculations show that each year the UK could achieve a target of at least 1m homes being brought up to a minimum level of energy efficiency (a B rating). Funded nationally, but administered on a local level by local authorities, who would procure and manage the delivery of programmes by private sector contractors, households would have a one off opportunity to join their local scheme and to access a low rate loan (1 – 2%).
Finance for the programme would come from a mix of government funding and loans to households who can afford to invest in the upgrade of their own homes. A recent report from the highly respected global consultancy firm, Arup, showed that receipts from VAT alone would mean that the UK would receive more in income than it spends on the programme. This would mean that rather than being a drain on resources, the scheme would enable the UK to invest more quickly in the other key infrastructure programmes, such as High Speed rail