Winter + energy bills + COVID-19 constraints = potential fuel poverty crisis

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A new report warns of a difficult winter ahead for fuel poor households across the UK in the coming winter, as a potent combination of higher energy use resulting from staying at home for longer is mixed with reductions in income. 

The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor collected evidence from 73 organisations to understand the impact that Covid-19 has had on energy consumers and look ahead to the challenges they will face this winter.  The research concluded that 75 per-cent of frontline organisations are concerned there is a high risk of fuel debt increasing this winter as a direct result of the pandemic, while 98 per-cent believe that there is a moderate or high risk of more households cutting back on their energy use due to being forced to spend more time at home during lockdown periods. 

The issues above are well-known of course, but that last figure relating to reducing energy use reflects concern born of professional experience.  We know the risk heightens for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly, mobility-impaired and low-income households, many of whom may be faced with ‘eat or heat’ choices. 

The broader evidence is that this winter will be particularly hard for those that struggle to heat their homes. 

  • Over the last five winters the number of excess winter deaths due to living in a cold home is estimated at approximately 10,000 per year
  • During the lockdown months, energy efficiency measure installs dropped by almost 90 per-cent 
  • In the event of a winter lockdown, families in cold, leaky homes would face heating bills elevated £49 higher than those in well insulated homes 
  • One in three British households are concerned about the health impacts of living in a cold home this winter. A YouGov poll, commissioned by National Energy Action (NEA), shows that 1 in 3 British households are concerned about the health impacts of living in a cold home. 

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of National Energy Action (NEA) says:  “Cold weather always hits fuel poor households hard. This winter, the mixture of reduced incomes, higher energy costs and the heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 will be a lethal cocktail for thousands of vulnerable people." 

It is estimated that 25,000 households across Norfolk experience some level of fuel poverty. CAN is committed to tackling these issues and supports a range of initiatives across the county. 

  • Thinkingfuel - our oil bulk buying scheme, delivers competitively low prices on heating oil and other fuels. Find out more here.  Click here for more information. 
  • We deliver British Energy Saving Network training to frontline staff to help them support clients in improving energy efficiency, staying warm, renewable energy, and switching suppliers. If you  would llike to book a one hour session for your staff or volunteers please contact us at [email protected]  
  • We promote Norfolk's Big Switch and Save initiative (gas and electric collective switching)-  Click here for more information 
  • CAN is a member of the Warm and Well partnership steering group. Click here for more information 
  • We support funding providers such as Sheringham Shoal, Norfolk Community Foundation, Age UK in promoting funding to tackle fuel poverty. 


Read more about fuel poverty and how CAN is contributing to its alleviation here.  You can find out more about the national efforts to influence government policy here