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According to the National Energy Action (NEA), and Energy Action Scotland (EAS), poor planning and a lack of national resources meant that UK residents were almost 10 times more likely to die from a cold house, than a road traffic collision last winter.
In response to this startling and worrying fact, local and central government bodies have created a number of grants and various schemes to support those that are classed as fuel poor.
What is Fuel Poor?
Fuel poverty or being fuel poor in England is measured using the Low Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator. Under the LIHC indicator, a household is considered to be fuel poor if:
.There are three key elements in deciding if a household is fuel poor:
Part of the problem behind being fuel poor is the use of old, inefficient heating appliances, which often use a great deal more energy for the same heat output. Lower income homes often only have old, tired appliances, which cost more to run – which further impact on the problem. Furthermore, these old inefficient heating appliances are also much less environmentally friendly.
Cleaner and More Efficient
The diagram below clearly outlines the differences in emissions between an open fire and an Ecodesign stove, and more relevant to this article, the diagram on lower right demonstrates how much more efficient a newly designed heating appliance is compared to one just 10 years old.
While very few homes will rely on full domestic heating from burning wood, it certainly does highlight how far appliance heating efficiency has come in recent years. This applies to burning wood and with varying degrees, to electric and gas heating also, which will vary from appliance to appliance.
One option available to homes who are fuel poor, is the governments ECO Scheme. The ECO Scheme is designed for qualifying people to have their old heating systems replaced for free. A key issue for those experiencing fuel poverty is them not having the money to upgrade to more efficient appliances in the first place, which will ultimately help save them money, help them out of fuel poverty, and to help them to heat their home in a more environmentally friendly way.
Off Grid Issues
According to the EST (Energy Saving Trust), more than twice the number of homes in rural areas, which reply on off grid heating such as oil, experience fuel poverty (32%), compared to those who use electricity/gas as their main heating source (15%). This is a mix of a number of things, such as lower wages in rural areas, less efficiently insulated homes, and the fact that oil and similar are generally more expensive, where you have to usually buy in bulk. Many domestic oil suppliers have a minimum oil delivery of 500 litres, which can cost in excess of £250 based on todays prices.
The key to driving down fuel poverty is to help people to have the basics in place to heat their homes more efficiently. A more efficient heating source will mean less emissions, and less money being spent on heating a home. A double positive!