The government has hailed the latest data on fuel poverty, noting that it is ‘encouraging’ to see that the number of people classed as being ‘fuel poor’ has fallen.
Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker explained that government innovations such as the Energy Company Obligation and Green Deal have supported more than 370,000 low income and vulnerable households already.
But the release of the statistics has received a mixed reaction, as the government recently changed the way fuel poverty was calculated, which industry leaders say has had an impact on the figures.
The latest data shows that the number of households in fuel poverty in England was estimated at around 2.28 million in 2012, representing around ten per cent of all English households. The government stated that this is a significant decrease (of almost 5 per cent) from the 2.39 million households recorded in 2011.
But charity National Energy Action argued that the statistics released by the government are misleading. Jenny Saunders, chief executive of the body, commented: “While the number of fuel poor households in England fell marginally in the year up to 2012, it is projected to increase again by 2014, up to 2.33 million. Their energy bills remain £1.1 billion more than they would be if they had properties and incomes in line with the average household.”
A spokesperson for the charity Christians Against Poverty also noted that while progress in reducing fuel poverty is to be welcomed, it is still “shocking” how widespread the problem is in the UK.
The charity’s representative said: “It is worse that so many of the poorest are having to pay for their gas and electric at a premium because of pre-paid meters which prevent them being able to get the best deals. We’d like to see more energy companies addressing this injustice.”
A roll-out of new smart meters is currently under-way, with the government hoping this innovation will encourage people to take action to reduce how much energy they use, bringing down their bills in the process.
Photo: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC/MOD [OGL (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/)], via Wikimedia Commons