NEA top 10 policy priorities

NEA is a national charity working to end fuel poverty and tackle exclusion in the energy market locally and nationally[1]. NEA’s vision is that ‘no one is living in fuel poverty’ but due to ineffective targeting and the current level of investment in GB-wide, national and local programmes this is unlikely to happen in the average lifetime of a baby born today. With our partners, the Warm Homes Campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of being able to live in a warm, comfortable home and illustrate how to improve access to equal life chances. This year, NEA is teaming up with I, Daniel Blake-star Dave Johns who is backing the winter-long campaign.

“It is a complete scandal that people die because they can’t afford to heat their homes. I, Daniel Blake shows the tragic circumstances and daily dilemma of ‘heating or eating’ faced by many thousands of people in Britain today. I’m backing NEA’s Warm Homes Campaign to highlight what help’s available to cope with rising energy bills as winter takes hold and demand more support from Government”.

Dave Johns[2]

Who is at risk and how does living in a cold home impact life chances?

Although fuel poverty is now measured differently across the UK, there remain significant similarities between the characteristics of households at risk of living in a cold home. The main drivers are the price of energy, the level of household income, the physical quality and energy efficiency characteristics of the dwelling and the degree of vulnerability of the occupants.

This combination of factors means that fuel poverty can impact people regardless of their age, sex, whether they are in work/inactive or their geographical location. Problems such as unhealthily low temperatures and damp are however much more prevalent depending on tenure. In particular the least efficient privately rented homes (such as poorly converted flats and shared properties such as bedsits and hostels) are causing the greatest hardship and the most acute risks for their residents. In a recent NEA survey over two thirds said residents in these types of home cannot afford to heat their room or shared space adequately. A similar number said the worst rental properties have such inadequate heating and insulation that it is impossible to keep them warm and free from damp[3].

The physical impacts of living in a cold home cause unnecessary suffering and premature mortality[4] and are a bigger killer than smoking, lack of exercise and alcohol abuse[5]. Beyond the impacts on the frail and elderly, children living in damp and mouldy homes are almost three times as likely to suffer from coughing, wheezing and respiratory illness[6]. Existing evidence also highlights infants living in cold conditions have a 30% greater risk of admission to hospital or primary care facilities[7]. This in turn impacts on educational attainment, either through increased school absence through illness or children unable to find a quiet, warm place to study in the home[8].

Financial stress about energy bills causes huge anxiety which can exacerbate mental health problems, leading to depression and potentially suicide[9]. Currently, more than one in four adolescents living in cold housing are at risk of multiple mental health problems[10]. The current scale of these problems in England alone costs health services approximately £3.6 million per day and in the past four years alone over £5 billion of tax payers’ money has been spent treating the morbidity associated with cold homes[11].

NEA’s top 10 policy priorities[12]
  1. Ensure current statutory commitments are met
  2. Urgently improve conditions in the Private Rented Sector
  3. Reduce the cost to health services of cold homes
  4. Maximise incomes and reduce distributional impacts of energy policies
  5. Take further steps to tackle exclusion in the energy market
  6. Expand access to the Warm Home Discount Scheme
  7. Ensure current energy efficiency schemes are fit for purpose
  8. Seize the wider smart energy and energy efficiency opportunity
  9. Reform and refocus Heat policy
  10. Incentivise network companies to take greater action on fuel poverty
Shortfalls in the current approach

The UK Government and each of the UK nations[13] formally recognise the need for citizens to adequately heat and power their homes[14]. The Prime Minister has also recently highlighted two thirds of energy customers are on the most expensive tariffs[15]. However there is currently little prospect of meeting fuel poverty commitments in England[16] or the other UK nations meeting their own statutory fuel poverty targets.

Based on current delivery rates and resources NEA has estimated the UK Government could miss the fuel poverty target in England by as much as 80 years[17] and according to the Committee on Fuel Poverty (CFP)[18], the Climate Change Committee (CCC)[19] and think tanks such as Policy Exchange[20] current resources are less than half of what is required to meet these commitments. Furthermore, currently, not £1 of public money is going to be spent on improving energy efficiency levels in England. England is the only nation without a Government-funded energy efficiency programme for the first time in over 30 years. This is despite domestic energy consumers contributing an estimated £14 billion to the Treasury[21] this Parliament, £30 billion over 10 years[22].

Other governments[23] channel these funds to invest in improving national competitiveness by reducing energy demand. Instead due to the significant reductions in the only GB-wide funding, in recent years, the delivery of home energy efficiency improvements has slowed dramatically across the UK and delivery of the most cost effective measures has reduced by an average of 75%[24] compared to 2008-2012. Reversing these recent trends would help improve the quality of life for those living in the UK, in particular the most vulnerable. In addition, an ambitious energy efficiency programme would capture substantial macro-economic benefits; avoid any unnecessary investment in new power generation; avoid overly subsidising existing capacity and help reduce the cost of network reinforcement.

[1] Please visit www.nea.org.uk

[2] Dave Johns is an English stand-up comedian, writer and actor. In 2016, he starred as the title character in the Palme D’Or-winning Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake in a critically acclaimed performance.

[3] Fuel Poverty and Houses in Multiple Occupation, produced by Future Climate and National Energy Action, 2016.

[4] Earlier this year the BBC’s Panorama also highlighted people are still getting ill and 9,000 people died needlessly because of cold homes in England

[5] Association for the Conservation of Energy (March 2015) Chilled to Death: The Human Cost of Cold Homes, page 2

[6]Marmot Review Team (2011) The Health Impacts of Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty. Friends of the Earth and the Marmot Review Team, London.  

[7] Child Health Impact Working Group (2006) Unhealthy Consequences: Energy Costs and Child Health. Boston, MA: CHIWG.

[8] NEA (2013) The Many Faces of Fuel Poverty. Page5.

[9] Christians Against Poverty (2015) The poor pay more: Prepayment meters and self-disconnection.

[10] NEA (2013) The Many Faces of Fuel Poverty. Page5.

[11] NEA press release, Cold homes claiming needless lives and costing every local Health and Wellbeing Board in England over £27,000 each day, 26 February 2016

[12] For full details of NEA’s key policy recommendations download the PDF here.

[13] The Fuel Poverty (England) Regulations 2014 are now law. The 2010 Fuel Poverty Strategy sets out a target to eradicate fuel poverty in Wales by 2018. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 requires the Scottish Government to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland, as far as is practicable, by November 2016. Despite there being no statutory targets to eradicate fuel poverty in Northern Ireland it has a fuel poverty strategy which seeks to end fuel poverty and statutory energy efficiency schemes. 

[14]  An adequate standard of warmth is usually defined as 21ºC for the main living area, and 18ºC for other occupied rooms.

[15] Theresa May’s keynote speech at Tory conference – Staff Wednesday 5 October 2016

[16] The Fuel Poverty (England) Regulations 2014 are now law.

[17] Only circa 23,000 fuel poor households are currently brought up to band C per year in England and we estimate it will take c. 95 years to bring all (current) fuel poor households up to band C. This will mean the Government could miss their target in England by 80 years.

[18] This breakdowns as £1.9bn to meet the 2020 EPC E milestone, a further £5.6bn to meet the 2025 EPC D milestone and a further £12.3bn to meet the 2030 EPC C target.

[19] Addressing fuel poverty and meeting carbon budgets go hand in hand (CCC), 7 October 2014.

[20] Warmer Homes – Improving fuel poverty and energy efficiency policy in the UK, 2015, Policy Exchange

[21] We estimate that £11.82bn will be collected in England, £1.33bn in Scotland, £690m in Wales and £190m in Northern Ireland).

[22] This analysis of the revenues the Treasury receives from domestic consumers is based on Government sources to estimate how much expected revenue they will receive from a) the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS), b) the Carbon Price Floor (CPF) and c) VAT on an average electricity bill. We have then combined this with expected VAT revenues from domestic gas bills. These estimates are all based on the Government’s own assumptions regarding energy consumption and this includes an unfounded assumption that EU products policy will increase the domestic energy efficiency of electric appliances substantially.  

[23] According to a recent report: The economic case for recycling carbon tax revenues into energy efficiency, Prashant Vaze and Louise Sunderland, February 2014: 13 countries in the EU have pledged to return part of the proceeds from the EU-ETS auctions to climate and energy efficiency programmes.

[24]CCC, Meeting Carbon Budgets – 2016 Progress Report to Parliament, June 2016 highlighted annual rates of cavity wall and loft insulation in 2013-2015 were 60% down and 90% down respectively on annual rates in 2008-2012

Published on 28-11-2016
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