A summer of action on fuel poverty
It is impossible to escape the recent news on fuel prices and the effect that this will have on energy bills. While there is a lot to be concerned about, there are things that can be done by governments, local authorities, housing associations, charities, communities and individual households to reduce bills. We need a summer of action on fuel poverty and there is a lot we can be getting on with.
Working out the scale of the problem
This issue is not confined to the poorest in society. In a recent project, we estimated the cost of fully heating every individual house in three Local Authority areas based on the fuel each house uses and its heat demand. This showed that not only has fuel poverty increased but that there were significant differences between how much it costs to heat houses in different areas.
For example in some parts of one authority area, there were fewer than 5% of properties that a household could afford to live in while avoiding fuel poverty, even if their income was about average. In this case fuel poverty was defined as being where the cost of heating a house cost more than 10% of household income after housing costs.
Improving energy efficiency to reduce fuel poverty risk
Ricardo worked with three councils to identify how fuel poverty risk could be reduced by energy efficiency measures. Our analysis identified where energy efficiency measures could be of greatest benefit in reducing energy demands.
Energy efficiency measures are really important in reducing fuel poverty, however not the whole story. In many areas with high risks of fuel poverty we found that energy efficiency measures had already been applied – the investment of local authorities and housing associations had reduced heat demands in these areas but with the increase in energy prices this isn't enough in itself.
Taking it further
There is more that could be done –for example in properties with electric heating, installing heat pumps reduces energy demands further and helps with bills.
To illustrate this, our recent work with Almshouses in Towcester has helped the charity to identify heat pump solutions which can help residents of a sheltered housing complex reduce their bills. In this case, our modelling demonstrated the potential impact that replacing electric heating with heat pumps on reducing fuel poverty at this site.
Heat pumps can also reduce heating costs in properties with other types of heating provided the costs of fuel for households are fully understood and good design practice is followed.
Identifying funding to make it happen
Having identified solutions, the next question is how they can be paid for. There are various funding opportunities in different parts of the UK, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme in England and Wales for example, can be used to fund or part fund heat pump installations. There are other sources of funding available such as from the Scottish Government, the Social Housing Net Zero Fund and the Heat Network Fund.
Ricardo’s heat decarbonisation experts can help in all these aspects
Ricardo’s heat decarbonisation experts and energy modellers can help identify where the risk is the greatest, where interventions achieve the biggest impacts, and how those interventions can be funded. We can provide further support on options appraisals, feasibility and implementation.
Contact us using the form on the right to find out more, and don’t delay - if we are to have a summer of action and minimise fuel poverty in the challenging winter ahead, we need to act now.
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