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Fuel Poverty

Official figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) showed the number of fuel poor in the UK have doubled from 2 million in 2004 to 4 million in 2007. During the same period domestic energy prices rose by up to 80 per cent.

Households that are forced to spend more than 10 per cent of income on energy bills to maintain adequate warmth are considered "fuel poor".

DECC estimated that the number of fuel poor in England alone will rise from 2.8 million in 2007 to 4.6 million in 2009.

Watchdogs Consumer Focus said if the increase is applied to the UK, the total number of households in fuel poverty in the UK could be as high as 6.6 million this year. The Government's own advisers the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group said the total could reach 7 million within 18 months.

Energy and Climate Change Minister David Kidney said he recognised more work needed to be done to tackle fuel poverty and promised that the Government would build on measures already introduced. He said: “We plan to legislate to give new powers to the regulator to take action, and are planning new measures on energy efficiency targeted at the poorest.” The Government says it will also increase the obligations on energy companies to help the most vulnerable by establishing a ‘super’ priority group under the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) covering the poorest households and the elderly.

Up to 90,000 homes in ten of the country’s poorest areas will receive help to undertake whole house makeovers to improve energy efficiency and reduce bills. British Gas will be carrying out work in Dundee, Glasgow, Swansea, Preston, Knowsley, Birmingham, Walsall, Blacon and the London boroughs of Southwark and Haringey as part of the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP).

CESP is a joint government, energy supplier and generator initiative that has earmarked £350 million for spending on energy efficiency measures over the next three years. British Gas plans to spend £70 million on the current programme.

The Government says it will also exert pressure on energy companies to pass on savings from wholesale price reductions to customers.

“We plan to legislate to give new powers to the regulator to take action, make social tariffs mandatory not optional, and are planning new measures on energy efficiency targeted at the poorest,” said Kidney.

However, Shadow Energy Minister Charles Hendry said: “Warm words are all ministers have offered the millions of families who are falling into debt to heat their homes.”