What is Energy poverty?
It’s living in a cold home, and the financial and health impacts of doing so. It’s not having the income to pay all the bills. It’s being hit with the cost of filling a tank of home heating oil in one go without having the savings for it. It’s using a costly source of fuel like coal to heat your rooms and sometimes your water. It’s living in a home that is draughty, poorly insulated and with an old boiler. Living in a cold home is probably due to a combination of these things. Energy poverty matters because it’s not just about money or feeling a bit cold: it has links to excess winter deaths, heightened risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and mental health problems.
The vast majority of people we assist live in rented accommodation, and at least half of these are in private rented housing. People living in the rented sector are twice as likely to live in a home with poor levels of energy efficiency – that’s an E, F or G on the Building Energy Rating (BER) scale.
Tenants use and pay for their energy bills so would benefit from any improvements in BER. But these improvements are the responsibility of the landlord. This poses a real policy challenge. How can rented housing be renovated without reducing either the supply or the affordability of the housing – or indeed both?
The Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty, published in February, acknowledges these challenges and sets out a pathway to tackle them. In Budget 2017 we’re asking Government to prioritise this Strategy, finance it accordingly and make a decisive impact on turning cold homes into warm homes – especially for people on low incomes and tenants in the private and social rented sectors.
Head of Social Justice and Policy
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