A guest blog from Manchester Friends of the Earth
With energy prices reaching record highs amid a cost-of-living crisis, a greater number of people across the UK are entering fuel poverty.
Fuel poverty refers to a household that cannot meet its fuel costs which tend to be above the national average. It most commonly impacts low-income individuals with energy inefficient homes leading to high energy usage. Poor insulation is one of the principal causes of fuel poverty as a significant amount of energy is wasted in households living in fuel poverty.
Why is this an issue?
With increasing living costs, it is estimated that more than 1 in 3 households could be in fuel poverty from October 2022. This is concerning since those living in fuel poverty are more susceptible to illness caused by damp and cold homes, such as respiratory diseases, cardiovascular stress, exacerbated asthma symptoms, and mental health implications.
Furthermore, there are socio-political issues associated with fuel poverty since neighbourhoods characterised by poor housing tend to be populated by people of colour, young people, or those with disabilities. This represents a significant inequality in terms of health and quality of housing. As an example, the neighbourhoods which will struggle the most with the energy crisis, known as energy crisis hotspots, represent 21% of people of colour compared to just 11% of white people. It is also estimated that 900,000 English households with a disabled resident are in fuel poverty, with 3.5 million young people living in energy crisis hotspots.
For more detail on Fuel Poverty see Friends of the Earth’s report. A map of fuel poverty hot spots across the UK has also been collated to help local authorities focus their action.
What’s the solution?
The solution needs to be better quality housing and the provision of insulation for properties that are able to take it on. There are over 4.4 million homes across England and Wales that qualify for cavity wall insulation but don’t have it, and a further 4.8 million without suitable loft insulation.
Households in fuel poverty are generally unable to afford insulation, therefore a campaign to improve the quality of housing needs to come from a government level. Subsidies and grants for household insulation need to be issued alongside educational campaigns raising awareness of the benefits properly insulated properties can bring. If insulation is a distant and unaffordable concept to millions of households across the UK, more and more people will fall into fuel poverty and experience the bleak consequences of it.
Friends of the Earth has launched its United for Warm Homes Campaign this September. One of its three campaign calls is to a nationwide insulation programme.
The other two calls are for:
Urgent additional financial support to keep people warm– see our list of support available in Greater Manchester.
Permanent fixes to our failed energy system.
If you would like to join us please get in touch – email@example.com and come along to one of our meetings – see our calendar.
Note from GMCR: You can find more energy saving actions at our Energy Actions page!