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Action over fuel poverty

Almost 95% of fuel-poor households will remain in fuel poverty in 2030 under government’s ‘unlawful’ plan
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Man in warm sweater with hot tea near radiator in winter

Ministers have been accused of ‘throwing in the towel’ on tackling fuel poverty.

A new analysis reveals that government plans to upgrade the energy efficiency of UK homes will help less than 6% of fuel poor households by the end of the decade, prompting the threat of legal action by Greenpeace UK.

’Shackled the poorest’

In a letter written to Greenpeace UK by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), following a freedom of information request, the government admits that the policies and schemes currently in place to improve the energy efficiency of homes would only reduce the number of households that were in fuel poverty in 2020 by 12% by 2030 – despite a deadline in UK law to significantly reduce fuel poverty by then. 

It also revealed that it is using outdated fuel poverty data from 2020 as a baseline for its strategy to tackle the issue.

‘By throwing in the towel on tackling fuel poverty the government has shackled the poorest people to the coldest homes and the highest bills. 

‘Almost a quarter of all households are now in fuel poverty. This is a national crisis yet the government’s failing strategy for tackling it means that at this rate it won’t meet its legally binding 2030 target until close to the end of the next century. 

‘A national home insulation programme can lift people out of fuel poverty, support better health and tackle the climate emergency. Unless the government gets on with it, we’ll see them in court.’

Greenpeace UK’s head of UK climate

Fuel poverty in the UK

The number of fuel-poor households in the UK has more than doubled since 2020 due to wholesale energy price rises over the last 12 months.

Now an estimated 6.7 million – almost one quarter (23.8%) of all households in the UK – are estimated to be living in fuel poverty. 

The UK has the least energy-efficient housing in Western Europe, which means high heating costs for low-income households. It also means housing is directly responsible for around 14% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the climate crisis.

Legal duty to upgrade homes

Using the latest fuel poverty figures, a Greenpeace analysis found that the government’s plans are even more inadequate than it admits and that almost 95% of fuel-poor households will still be in fuel poverty in 2030 as a result of the current strategy.

Under the implementation of the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, the government has a statutory obligation to upgrade as many homes ‘as is reasonably practicable’ of people living in fuel poverty to a minimum energy efficiency rating of B and C by the end of 2030.

The government’s admission that it is failing in this legal duty is seen as potentially unlawful by Greenpeace’s lawyers and is being used as the grounds for threat of a judicial review.

Government in court?

In a Pre-Action letter sent to the Secretary of State for BEIS, Grant Shapps, earlier this week, Greenpeace UK states that, ‘The time for action crystallised long ago. No meaningful action has been taken or is proposed to be taken within a realistic and effective timeline”.

As a result, Greenpeace is threatening to take the government to court unless it immediately carries out a review into its strategy for tackling fuel poverty, and demonstrates how the target could be hit.

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