Fuel poor households face “difficult winter” without urgent action

National Energy Action (NEA) has warned of “significant hardship” for fuel poor households in the coming winter, owed to the combination of higher energy use – from staying home longer – and reductions in income.

On 14 September, NEA and Energy Action Scotland published the UK Fuel Poverty Monitor, which had collected evidence from 73 organisations to understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on energy consumers, as well as looking ahead to the challenges that they will face this winter. It found that three quarters of frontline organisations are concerned there is a high risk fuel debt will increase this winter owed to the pandemic, while 98% believe there is a moderate or high risk of more households cutting back on their energy use due to being forced to spend more time at home during lockdown.

The NEA further set out how during lockdown, energy efficiency measure installs fell almost 90%, equivalent to 30,000 fewer measures, while a winter lockdown would see families in inefficient homes face heating bills £49 higher than those in well insulated ones.

The report found that action can be taken to mitigate the impacts of the virus on fuel poor households this winter by improving the identification of customers in need, by using all available data; improving the awareness and communication of available assistance; providing support for prepayment energy customers; addressing the increasing amounts of energy debt that have accrued as a result of the crisis; and addressing a hiatus in policy making and policy programme delivery.