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4.5 million low income households across the UK are facing fuel poverty

4.5 million low income households across the UK are facing fuel poverty
3 min read

SNP MP Drew Hendry writes in advance of his debate on fuel poverty and calls on the Chancellor to spell out how the Government will reduce fuel poverty in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Across the nations of the UK there are 14 regions of the electricity market, that’s the potential for 14 different prices for electricity. This situation has created an inequity of service in many constituencies, perhaps no example is as stark as in mine however, as it results in people in the Highlands paying 2p to 6p per unit of electricity more than other areas. This, despite the fact that there are areas of the Highlands and Islands where fuel poverty is as high as 70%. Electricity charged at a premium in the very parts of the UK with the coldest weather and the darkest nights exasperates the growing issue of fuel poverty.

We are told that households in the Highlands and Islands are paying more because of the cost of transmitting the power to them.
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MP urges fuel poverty victims to seek help

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Yet, some of the world’s best renewable power resources can be found on the land and shores of the Highlands & Islands. Coupled with the wealth of engineering expertise, it is an area leading the way in the UK’s energy industry. Our wind, wave, hydro and tidal projects have grown from strength to strength even though it costs more to export the electricity produced,  another flaw in the energy pricing system. Under current regimes the Highlands & Islands pay more to share electricity produced at the same time as its residents pay more to use electricity.  Hardly a story of fairness. Hardly a plan to support to put an end to fuel poverty.

The UK government has only given warm words on the subject. Families who sit freezing in their homes because they can’t afford the bills need real warmth and action to help them now. Those words are nothing but a cold comfort. A national pricing structure to restore equality and fairness in electricity pricing should be the starting point.

As mentioned, this is, however, not just a story about the Highlands & Islands. It is the story of an estimated 4.5 million low income households across the UK who are facing fuel poverty according to the independent charity National Energy Action (NEA). It is a story set to get worse. We already know that this Governments punitive austerity agenda will disproportionally hit more low income families next year. Yes, again it’s those families struggling to heat their homes who face the sharpest edge of the cuts.  

It is estimated that already two thirds of working parents unable to meet their energy costs and alarmingly according to NEA 67% of people with disabilities are reporting their struggles.

Tomorrow the Chancellor needs to set out this Government's fuel poverty commitments in England as well as the support available to help the other UK nations. That commitment will only work if energy efficiency policies are focused on vulnerable low-income households that need the most support to reduce their energy costs. 

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Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at Calor Gas, Paul Blacklock, has responded to this article:

" Caloris pleased that Drew Hendry MP has secured his debate on this crucial area of policy. We have serious long held concerns regarding access to, and the delivery of, properly targeted help and support for fuel poor and vulnerable householders who live in rural areas off the gas grid and who want to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. These households have been the least likely to benefit from government support to improve the energy efficiency of their homes despite experiencing the most severe levels of fuel poverty."

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