About National Energy Action

Young man with arm crossed in large community hall

Who we are

National Energy Action, the fuel poverty charity, campaigns so everyone can afford to live in a warm and safe home. This is something denied to millions because of poor housing, low incomes, and high bills.

Working across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, everything we do aims to improve the lives of people in fuel poverty. We directly support people with energy and income maximisation advice and we advocate on issues including improving the energy efficiency of our homes.

We do not work alone. Partnerships and collaboration have been at the heart of NEA for over 40 years, helping us drive better health and wellbeing outcomes for people struggling to heat their homes.

National Energy Action was founded in 1981 when students at Durham University established a group of volunteers to install loft insulation in the homes of elderly local people. Their experiences led them to realise there was a huge problem with people living in cold and unhealthy homes, suffering from fuel poverty. Subsequently, working with Newcastle City Council, this project was replicated on a wider scale by putting together different funding streams to develop community insulation projects. On 18 May 1981, Neighbourhood Energy Action was formally launched as a development programme of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Since then Neighbourhood Energy Action has evolved into National Energy Action (NEA), employing over 70 staff across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Our actions have brought real social change, enabling millions of people to access grants and assistance to help them live in a warm home. Our campaigning work has also ensured that fuel poverty is now firmly on the public policy agenda.

We also work closely with our sister charity Energy Action Scotland. You can find out more about their work to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland at www.eas.org.uk

National Energy Action’s (NEA) work

Our vision is to end fuel poverty. We work across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that everyone can afford to live in a warm home.

We do this by

  • Providing advice and support to people struggling to heat their homes affordably, either directly or via community engagement projects and outreach
  • Campaigning and advocacy to ensure that the needs of fuel poor households are at the heart of policy decisions
  • Undertaking research and sharing insights
  • Developing accredited training and qualifications to improve standards of energy advice

We can’t do this alone. Our work is delivered in partnership with policy makers, manufacturers, installers, energy suppliers and networks, local authorities, housing associations, universities, and many others with an interest in understanding and supporting those in fuel poverty.

How NEA’s work has helped

In 2019-20 we helped over 1 million people access support. Here are some of our impacts

  • 6,000 people provided with direct advice and support
  • 1300 clients were helped to access an additional £5.5 million welfare benefits at an average of more than £2,600 each
  • 200 energy efficiency and heating measures were installed in partnership with gas distribution and energy suppliers bringing boilers, heating systems and energy efficiency into fuel poor homes
  • 79 groups provided with smart meter-based activities through our partnership with Smart Energy GB, benefiting thousands of people over the age of 65
  • 3,243 people trained, who in turn will support more than 1 million people
  • 643 school children participated in our education and schools programme
  • Helped secure new Government commitments to improving cold homes in political manifestos, created new impetus to debates on water poverty, ensured that the needs of vulnerable energy customers were consistently recognised and addressed.

“I cannot thank you enough for this. It has totally changed our life.
The scheme is absolutely brilliant and, if it has helped anyone else, there are going to be a hell of a lot of happy people about.”

How NEA fundraises

National Energy Action’s (NEA) income is largely derived from grants, sponsorships, fees from members and business supporters and sales of training courses, examinations, events and consultancy.  We continually diversify our income streams to respond to current and future challenges.

picture of woman with cold hands to her mouth

What is fuel poverty?

We should all be able to stay warm at home. However, rising energy costs, low incomes and energy-inefficient homes are restricting people’s options, leaving them in impossible situations like having to choose to heat their home, feed their children or pay their rent.

From October National Energy Action predicts 8.2 million UK households could be in fuel poverty – that’s one in three. It comes after Cornwall Insight predicted the average annual energy bill could reach £3,250 – that’s £270 a month. Currently, around 6.5 million UK households are in the grip of fuel poverty, unable to afford to heat their homes to the temperature needed to keep warm and healthy. It’s a national injustice that sees those with the least money having no choice but to live in homes that are the most difficult and expensive to heat.

The government uses the Low Income Low Energy Efficiency (LILEE) definition for fuel poverty in England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland use different definitions). Under the LILEE indicator, a household is considered to be fuel poor if:

  • they are living in a property with a fuel poverty energy efficiency rating of band D or below
  • and when they spend the required amount to heat their home, they are left with a residual income below the official poverty line

There are three important elements in determining whether a household is fuel poor:

  • household income
  • household energy requirements – energy efficiency is a key driver of fuel poverty, as higher energy efficiency reduces a household’s fuel costs for a particular size of property
  • fuel prices – the energy price cap, which keeps suppliers from setting their default tariff higher than a set amount, is largely determined by wholesale energy prices

The fuel poverty gap is the additional income that would be needed to bring a household to the point of not being fuel poor.

The impacts

Prolonged periods when households struggle to pay their bills can lead to increasing and unsustainable levels of debt for households, resulting in a vicious cycle that can be difficult to escape from. It can also lead to unsafe energy rationing, where households try to use as little energy as possible, and even voluntary self disconnection by those with prepayment meters in a bid to spend less.

Cold homes can cause or worsen a range of serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, bronchitis, and asthma. Each year, around 10,000 people die as a result of living in a cold home. Fuel poverty can also have a significant impact on mental health and is a known risk factor for suicide.

Public Health England (PHE) has warned there is a damaging overlap between the health impacts of living in a cold home and Covid-19. Pre-existing chronic medical conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and heart disease are particularly badly affected by a cold home.

Cold homes are also preventing children from thriving. Without a warm, quiet place to do their homework, they can fall behind at school. A lack of hot water means they might avoid personal care, leading to bullying and social isolation. With no warm space to spend time with their family they can spend hours of the day alone in bed. Some resort to using public places like libraries or friends’ houses to stay warm in. All this is disruptive and damaging a time crucial for their development.

The collective impact on the UK is significant too. £1.3bn is spent each year on health services in England on treating illness caused by cold homes, and 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from housing. If households were sufficiently supported to retrofit their homes, then both fuel poverty and the UK’s impact on climate change would be lessened.

The solutions

Fuel poverty is not inevitable. The same systems that created the problem can be reshaped to build a society where everyone gets to live in a warm home. The UK has a legally binding target to tackle fuel poverty. In 2014, the government put in place a new statutory fuel poverty target for England. To ensure that as many fuel poor households as reasonably practicable achieve a minimum energy efficiency rating of band C by 2030, with interim targets of band E by 2020, and band D by 2025.

Providing financial support to help struggling households improve the heating and insulation of their properties would make their homes easier and cheaper to heat, as well as reduce carbon emissions.

Vulnerable people can be supported to navigate the complexities of the energy market, and additional protections can be put in place to make sure they aren’t unfairly disadvantaged by policies and practices.

And welfare systems can be redesigned to help release more people from the grip of poverty.

NEA works to raise awareness of fuel poverty through campaigning and policy advocacy. We also provide advice to fuel poor and vulnerable households to help them save money and access vital benefits and rebates. You can contact us here.