The House of Commons Library has produced a useful
briefing paper on Fuel Poverty which you may find useful in
developing or updating your own fuel poverty strategies.
The briefing paper provides an overview of how fuel poverty is
defined and measured and current policy initiatives designed to
It highlights that the term 'fuel poverty' is used to refer to
households which struggle to afford to keep their homes at a
reasonable temperature, but the precise definition varies across
Originally, a household was defined as being in fuel poverty if
they would have to spend more than 10% of their income to keep
their home at a reasonable temperature. This definition is still
used in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, following a review, the definition in England changed
in 2013. Households in England are now said to be in fuel poverty
if they would have to spend more than the median amount on fuel to
keep their home at a reasonable temperature and if spending that
amount would put their income below the poverty line. This is known
as the Low Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator.
The most recent estimates of the fuel poverty rate in each
nation in the UK are as follows:
- 10.4% of all households in England (2.35 million households) in
2013 using the LIHC definition
And, using their separate definition:
- 34.9% of all households in Scotland (0.85 million) in 2014
- 30% of all households in Wales (0.39 million) in 2012
- 42% of all households in Northern Ireland (0.29 million) in
The statutory requirement to address fuel poverty was at the
centre of the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act
(WHECA) which was passed with cross party support in 2000
and applied to England and Wales.
The Coalition Government published a new fuel poverty strategy
for England in March 2015 (Cutting the cost of keeping warm: a fuel poverty
strategy for England).
There are two types of measures aimed at combating fuel poverty:
those funded through direct public-sector expenditure and those
funded through legal obligations placed on energy suppliers to
assist vulnerable customers and where the costs are recovered
through all customer bills.
Public spending focusses on reducing the amount households spend
on energy through the Winter Fuel Payment (aimed at older people)
and Cold Weather Payments (aimed at people on certain benefits and
paid when the local temperature reaches below 0°C).
There are currently two main energy supplier obligations:
- The Warm Home Discount requires suppliers to provide an
electricity bill discount for certain customers.
- The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) provides funding to improve
energy efficiency in difficult to treat housing and the homes of
'those most in need'.