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Last updated July 2022

Fuel Poverty Statistics Explainer

Since the winter period of 2020/21 energy prices have soared from an average of £1042 now being set at £1971, almost doubling in the space of just 18 months and it’s estimated 6.5 million UK households are now living in fuel poverty. 

Energy consultancy Cornwall Insight recently predicted gas and electricity bills for British households will rise to more than £3,500 a year in October as a result of high wholesale gas and power prices and jump further to more than £4,200 in January. We estimate this could leave 8.8 million households across the UK in fuel poverty in October, and more than 10 million in January.

In May, the UK Government announced a series of measures in an attempt to mitigate the energy crisis for households which are most vulnerable to the impacts of fuel poverty. Given the package was based on an £800 increase in bills in October, these policies may now only offset part of the impact of the expected price increase, but with energy prices already extraordinarily high, it is expected millions of households will still struggle to keep warm this winter.

What is fuel poverty and what are its drivers

In 2000, UK-wide legislation first defined a person living in fuel poverty as “a member of a household living on a lower income in a home which cannot be kept warm at reasonable cost”. Whilst our understanding of fuel poverty is still broadly consistent across the four nations of the UK, it is now measured in different ways in some UK nations. An inability to heat a home is however still driven by three common factors across the nations: a household’s income, their fuel costs and their energy consumption.

How many fuel poor households are there in the UK?

Due to reductions in household incomes, surging energy prices and relatively modest improvements in energy efficiency levels, NEA estimates that the number of households in fuel poverty across the UK is 6.5 million households, as of the start of April 2022, an increase of more than 50% in just over six months. NEA bases its projections on the 10% definition of fuel poverty which gives a realistic picture of the scale of fuel poverty in periods of more volatile energy prices. 

Why has fuel poverty increased so much?

At the start of October 2021, NEA estimated 4 million households in the UK were in fuel poverty – struggling to afford to keep their homes warm and safe. Then, the GB-wide price cap was raised in October 2021. Our estimates showed that an additional half a million households were then classed as fuel poor. Alongside similar unprecedented increases in Northern Ireland, the GB price cap raised again from 1 April, a jump of an additional £700 per year to leave the ‘average’ domestic energy bills at ~£2000, leaving a further 2 million households in fuel poverty. 

Does this take account of the UK Government’s recent energy price interventions?

Our 8.2 million estimate does take into account the GB-wide £400 energy rebate but not the other support measures announced by the UK Government. This is because every domestic electricity consumer will receive the universal rebate, whereas only pensioners, those with disabilities, or those on benefits will receive the additional support the UK Government has announced.