7 May 2011

Action on fuel poverty

Some will remember I am in the process of driving improvements to tackling fuel poverty locally - see the inquiry report I chaired here. Well I've just emailed Neil Carmichael MP as it is the Second Reading of the Energy Bill in less than a week.

At the moment, the Bill remains weak and won't go far enough to help us do a home energy makeover, and certainly won't reduce carbon emissions by anywhere near as far as the science tells us we have to go. MPs still have time to strengthen the bill. To increase the pressure on the powers that be, Stop Climate Chaos and 55 other organisations are aiming to make the government improve the Energy Bill. Saving energy is the first step to tackling climate change but the current proposals aren’t up to the challenge of cutting carbon. Take action: tell your MP you want them to improve the Energy Bill by clicking here.

Greens have very real concerns that rising unemployment and increasing fuel prices will lead to far greater fuel poverty unless more is done to invest in energy efficiency - already 15.7% of households in Stroud District are in fuel poverty.

Households are considered by the Government to be in fuel poverty if they have to spend more than 10% of their household income on fuel just to keep their home in a 'satisfactory condition’. Research shows that consumers are wasting £2.5 billion because they don't have adequate insulation – of the 26.5 million homes in the UK, just 12.3 million have sufficient loft insulation and only 10.3 million have cavity wall insulation. The latest figures (2009-10) show that there were 23,100 additional winter deaths among people over the age of 65 in England and Wales. For every additional winter death, there are also around 8 admissions to hospital, 32 to outpatient care and 30 social services calls. The cost to the NHS has been calculated to be in excess of £1billion.

As I have said before the Green Party believes that a free insulation scheme for every household that needs it is the way forward. By investing in energy efficiency, thousands of  jobs across the country could be created reducing the unemployment figures as well as improving the housing stock. Investing in energy efficiency is a win, win situation.  It helps reduce fuel poverty, tackle climate change, creates employment and generates money for the local economy.

Darren Johnson, Councillor and London Assembly Member, is quoted last month in the run up to the elections saying: "Everyone has the right to have a warm home and be able to pay their fuel bills. Persistently cold homes contribute to misery, ill-health and social exclusion – and the fact that the UK consistently has more winter deaths than countries colder climates is an indication that we have got things wrong. We already have the technology to build zero carbon housing and this should be the standard for all new developments."

Green Councillors are leading the way in developing energy efficiency. In Kirklees, Green Councillors delivered a project to provide free loft and cavity insulation to every house that could benefit. They are providing loans for more expensive insulation measures, loans which only have to be paid back when the property is sold again. Council officers in Kirklees calculate for every £1 that their council spent on a similar insulation scheme, a further £4 was generated in the local economy.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fine words indeed Phil but I think it should be said that the Green party is not alone in seeking improvements in fuel efficiency and a reduction in fuel poverty. After all there are 27 Labour councillors on the Labour controlled Kirkless council and only 4 Greens so I suspect they had a little bit of help?

Philip Booth said...

You are right - there are many in Labour who are passionate about fuel poverty. However fuel poverty has more than doubled in the UK since 2003. Take Wales for example - the November 2010 fuel poverty figures showed that in 2008, 332,000 of households in Wales were estimated to be fuel poor and that this figure had risen by 198,000 since 2004. The rise represents an increase of 15%: in 2008 26% of Welsh households were estimated to be in fuel poverty.

The previous Labour Government took action to address fuel poverty and improve the energy efficiency of homes – these included the winter fuel payment, central heating programmes and the energy efficiency commitment. However they have gone no where near far enough. It is vital we do more to tackle energy efficiency...

Cllr Paul Denney said...

Phil, I think we are singing from the same Hymn sheet here. Yes Labour made a good start at tackling fuel poverty but were somewhat thwarted by rising fuel costs which tipped even more people into FP as fast as they tried to get them out. I am sure they could have done more but when in power you have to prioritise and priority went to building schools and hospitals and alas fighting a futile war in Iraq. Anyway there isn’t much point in looking back as what’s done is done; our battle ground is the future.
Addressing fuel poverty is not going to be an easy task when the price of imported fossil fuels is not ours to command. Divorcing ourselves from coal, oil and gas need s to be a priority along with making the move to renewables. Due to the low energy density of renewables energy efficiency must go hand in hand. Nuclear isn’t an option I feel for three reasons, it isn’t publicly owned anymore, we still can’t get rid of the waste and uranium will run out too. New houses need to be made to the highest possible standards (which could be done at the stroke of a pen given the political will) and old either demolished and re-built or improved using grant aid (and not just for those on benefits, the squeezed middle know what needs to be done, but at present don’t have the disposable income to do it). Oh and re-nationalising power generation might not be a bad idea either because at least then we can plan future energy supply in a sensible and measured way.
All of the above needs will and cash (neither of which we will get from the current government) and for the general population to buy into and support the transition. I think we have our work cut out!

Philip Booth said...

Thanks - yes indeed the same song sheet on this! I am hoping with the proposed energy strategy the Council will develop, that we can then target resources where most needed. Agree alot is not in our hands - but there is much that can be done locally - look forward to working with you.

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Wethertex said...

What kind of lessons can we learn from our friends in other countries such as Australia and the USA? Do they have a fuel poverty problem too? Or even our closer neighbours in Europe? It seems that Britain has some learning to do.


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