Editor Pick’s | Fuel Poverty Monitor reveals systemic challenges in Northern Ireland

This article was originally published on 8 October 2019 in Energy Spectrum Ireland

On 17 September, EAS and National Energy Action (NEA) published The Fuel Poverty Monitor 2018/19. It highlighted that stakeholders in Northern Ireland have shown an interest in energy efficiency and affordability, however, several barriers to entry remain.

Affecting 24.9% of households in Scotland, 22% in Northern Ireland, 12% in Wales and 10.9% of households in England, three different approaches to how fuel poverty is defined and measured in the UK has created ongoing complexities in addressing its scale. Such barriers include fluctuating energy prices and income stagnation; demand outweighing supply; wholesale energy prices and an overreliance on oil which is limiting the affordability of energy for fuel-poor households, the report stated.

Additionally, challenges included insufficient resource to deliver energy efficiency improvements (even with area-based schemes); a lack of resource to cover revenue costs associated with the delivery of energy efficiency and advice to vulnerable households; difficulties associated with improving energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector and falling incomes. Existing available data also is also unable to capture all households in need.

In Northern Ireland and Wales, households are defined to be in fuel poverty if they spend over 10% of their income on fuel, whereas the government is looking to move away from the Low Income High Cost definition in England, to one which looks towards the efficiency rating of a property, in combination with the current relative measure on income. Whilst this will categorise a further million households as fuel poor in EPC bands D – G, it will reclassify up to 200,000 households living in Band C or above. On the other hand, the new fuel poverty definition in Scotland states that a household is in fuel poverty if the fuel costs are over 10% of its net income.

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