For immediate release: 02/03/2021
Contact: Michael Potter: 07595410756/Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org
Today the Welsh Government has released its new Fuel Poverty Plan. The Plan seeks to reinvigorate action to end fuel poverty in Wales by 2035 following previous statutory targets to end fuel poverty being missed. Despite welcoming many of the proposed short-term actions, fuel poverty charity – NEA Cymru – says the Welsh Government has fallen short of its statutory duties. NEA Cymru says unless urgently addressed thousands of people living in the coldest and most expensive to heat homes may not be helped for many years to come.
Ben Saltmarsh, Head of NEA Cymru comments:
“Several years after the previous targets to eradicate the scourge of cold homes in Wales were missed, fuel poverty continues to be a devastating problem. Over 150,000 households cannot afford to heat and power their homes and Covid-19 has made this challenge even starker, with many people at home using more energy, owing more and earning less. While NEA welcomes a number of planned short-term actions announced today, we are very concerned that the Plan doesn’t go nearly far enough. Thousands of the poorest people living in the most expensive to heat homes could be left out in the cold for years to come”.
As well as setting a final target for action to end fuel poverty in Wales, the Welsh Government has a legal duty to introduce supporting milestones to set a path to the final target. While the Welsh Government commit to consider these interim targets in 2023, today’s Plan does not include this legal requirement. Saltmarsh, adds:
“The impact of the pandemic may make targets difficult to set, but it makes them all the more important. 14 years is a long way off. During the consultation we underlined the need for the Welsh Government to meet its statutory obligation to introduce interim targets. These ‘staging posts’ can help frontload delivery and ensure there is continuous progress. The Welsh Government has so far fallen short of this duty. We want to see this rectified before next winter so that there is a clear commitment to eliminating the most severe fuel poverty by the end of this decade at the very latest. NEA also wants this milestone and the final target put on a statutory basis to ensure that they have legal standing and cannot be dismissed by future administrations”.
NEA is also long-standing advocate for using energy efficiency as a key lasting solution to help end fuel poverty. A recent independent analysis highlighted families in cold, leaky homes have faced heating bills £50 higher per month during the winter lockdown, compared to those living in well-insulated homes. Saltmarsh continues:
“Fixing Wales’ cold, leaky housing and reducing needless energy costs is fundamental, yet the Welsh Government has also missed the opportunity to introduce fuel poverty targets related to upgrading the energy efficiency of homes. Helping improve homes, especially for those living on the lowest incomes, is directly in the control of the Welsh Government and should have been a clear priority”.
Despite the stark warning, NEA Cymru notes that it will continue to work with the Welsh Government to implement the new Plan. Saltmarsh concludes:
“While we are very disappointed by these missed opportunities, we will continue to work with the Welsh Government to make the most of the Plan. The near-term actions are necessary but to turn the tide and reduce acute unnecessary hardship, premature mortality, pressures on health services and create a fair transition to net zero, we will need to be much more ambitious”.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information or to arrange an interview with a NEA spokesperson please contact Michael Potter on 07595410756
- Fuel poverty – Households needing to pay more than 10% of their full household income to maintain a satisfactory heating regime. In Wales 12% of households were estimated to be living in fuel poverty in 2018, a significant reduction over the last decade but at least 155,000 households are still struggling to afford the cost of heating their home or living with the consequences of cold, damp and unhealthy homes.
- National Energy Action (NEA) is a national charity with a vision to end fuel poverty. Our work to improve and promote energy efficiency brings social, environmental, housing and employment benefits. NEA Cymru works with a range of partners and like-minded organisations to campaign for greater investment in energy efficiency to help those who are poor and vulnerable. Our activities include direct support to households, community engagement activities, consultancy services, research and evaluation projects and an extensive training portfolio. Everything we do is to further our charitable aims, lead to an evidence-based policy position or positive and sustainable change for the fuel poor.
- The Welsh Government Fuel Poverty Plan can be found here: https://gov.wales/tackling-fuel-poverty-2021-2035-html. NEA Cymru’s consultation response provides further background on the issues explored within this press release and can be found here: https://www.nea.org.uk/publications/welsh-government-fuel-poverty-plan/?parent=what-we-do/resources-publications
- The Welsh Government have today set three new objectives to address fuel poverty in Wales. By 2035 they commit to:
- No households are estimated to be living in severe or persistent fuel poverty as far as reasonably practicable;
- Not more than 5% of households are estimated to be living in fuel poverty at any one time as far as reasonably practicable;
- The number of all households “at risk” of falling into fuel poverty will be more than halved based on the 2018 estimate.
These targets will be used to determine how successful the Welsh Government has been at achieving the statutory objective. The Welsh Government notes it will undertake further research into potential interim targets to be introduced as part of the first periodic review to be undertaken in 2023.
- Severe fuel poverty means a household needing to pay more than 20% of their full household income to maintain a satisfactory heating regime. At risk of fuel poverty means a household needing to pay more than 8%, but less than 10% of their full household income to maintain a satisfactory heating regime. Persistent fuel poverty is when a household needs to pay more than 10% of their full household income to maintain a satisfactory heating regime in two out of the three preceding years.
- Analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit earlier in the pandemic predicted that families in cold, energy inefficient homes would face heating bills elevated on average to £124 per month this winter, compared with £76 for those in well-insulated homes
- NEA recommended the Welsh Government introduce at least one additional EPC-based target to improve the energy efficiency of fuel poor homes. At the very least, for the Welsh Government to match the statutory target in England, for all fuel poor households to reach EPC Band C by 2030, if not EPC Band A as recommended by the Decarbonisation of Homes in Wales Advisory Group.