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10/2/2014 Partnerships

Rural disadvantage - Government policy leaving rural fuel poor out in the cold

Leading fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action, and rural energy supplier, Calor Gas Ltd, have called on the Government to take urgent action to address the growing crisis of fuel poverty in rural off-gas areas.

In a joint report entitled ‘Energy and Equity: One Year On – Access to Government Programmes for Rural and Off Gas Households in England’, NEA and Calor outline the fundamental barriers that rural households face in accessing energy efficiency and fuel poverty assistance schemes and insist that these issues must be addressed as part of a new and ambitious fuel poverty strategy.

The report is a follow-up to a paper published by NEA and Calor in 2013 which highlighted official statistics showing that fuel poor households located off the gas network are typically prone to much more severe fuel poverty and despite policy interventions, these households are least likely to benefit from current policies.

One Year On’ revisits this report to investigate what has changed in light of legislative developments which have established a new fuel poverty target in England and key policy announcements to modify the Energy Company Obligation and Fuel Poverty Strategy. However, the report highlights that despite this progress, the latest set of fuel poverty and ECO delivery statistics show that the depth of rural off-gas fuel poverty is deepening with little prospect of improvement under current energy efficiency and fuel poverty policies.

In light of this, both organisations continue to share serious long term misgivings regarding access to, and delivery of, properly targeted help and support for householders who live off the gas grid and who want to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Launching the report at the Labour party conference in Manchester, Holly Sims, Corporate Affairs Manager at Calor commented, “There can be no further justification for not taking adequate action to support these households. All too often the Government’s energy efficiency schemes have failed rural off-gas grid areas, especially the poorest. The new fuel poverty strategy is a key opportunity to address these issues.”

Maria Wardrobe, NEA’s Director of External Affairs said “The report highlights the critical importance of the next Comprehensive Spending Review following the General Election in May 2015. Without an enhanced spending commitment, resources will continue to be insufficient and directly after the election there will be a need to dramatically strengthen and supplement existing programmes. In return, this improved approach will deliver new jobs and economic growth, reduce pressure on health services, increase energy security and reduce carbon emissions. Most importantly, it will provide a long-term, sustainable solution to unaffordable fuel bills and secure warm, healthy homes for all consumers, wherever they live.”