23 Sep 2011

County charity warns government's Fuel Switch drive wont help vulnerable

Stroud-based charity, Wood U Waste (i), has warned that the government needs to ‘live in the real world’ as it develops plans to get more households to fuel switch to help cut rising energy bills.
National Energy Action says the average energy bill in 2004 was £580. By 2010 this had risen to £1,194. This winter households will face further bill increases of up to 20%.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne announced this week at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Birmingham that he wanted to ‘get tough’ on the Big Six energy companies. He said they needed to simplify tariffs and make it easier to get a better deal on bills. However he was also quoted saying that many people ‘can’t be bothered’ to hunt for a better deal and would rather spend time hunting for a £25 toaster on-line than researching energy savings.

Debbie Hewitt, project manager at Wood U Waste, runs a project that helps vulnerable households in Gloucestershire to fuel switch.  She warns that assisting those at most risk from rising fuel bills is not as easy as politicians seem to think. She said in a press release earlier this week: "We have worked with numerous groups of elderly people around the Stroud District and there is one message that comes across loud and clear. In the real world, the majority of people over 60 are not confident on the internet and are therefore excluded from searching for better energy deals online. Where is the government funding to empower the elderly to access these fuel switch sites?”

Central Government has a target to eradicate fuel poverty in all households by 2016. It has already missed its first target on eliminating fuel poverty in vulnerable households by 2010 and looks set to miss this one as well. We know only too well that Fuel poverty contributes to excess winter deaths - see here - when the Warm Front scheme ends in 2013 as proposed, England will have no publicly-funded scheme to help households in fuel poverty. Having been re-launched in a slimmed-down form in April, the scheme is likely to reach about 50,000 households in each of the next two years; vastly short of the increasing numbers of households experiencing fuel poverty. The scheme no longer offers a benefit entitlement check, which in the past picked up many households who were entitled to a qualifying benefit and, as such, improved family incomes. We can hope the Green Deal will help fill some of the gap.

Locally at the next Scrutiny meeting we will be looking at the Energy Strategy for Stroud's Council housing - this is what I have been pushing for a number of years and recommended as chair of two scrutiny inquiries. I have also met with Officers on numerous occasions to give input to the strategy. I am delighted it is now coming forward - more on that soon - but equally I have concerns that in the current climate not enough will be done...
(i) Wood U Waste is a registered charity seeking to alleviate fuel poverty in various ways. Its briquette project works with Leyhill Prison to turn waste sawdust into low cost fuel. Two years ago this initiative was recognized as the ‘Best in Britain’ by a government-sponsored award scheme.
This winter Wood U Waste will be running a Winter Fuel Payment Appeal. It will be urging thousands of the more well-off  households who will automatically receive the payments of between £200-300 to donate some or all of the cash to four local organisations working to keep vulnerable local people warm. One of these has a project offering visits to elderly people who cannot use the internet to help them search for better fuel deals on a laptop in their own homes.


FrankSW said...

Blimey that's a new one on me - the government actually have a policy to reduce fuel poverty.

So why are they at the same time rolling out the most expensive and unsuitable forms of power generation that we know (Wind and solar to you)

Currently adding an average £200 per consumer per annum compared to using a mix of other forms of power generation. If they reach their renewable targets that some will effectively rise to over £600.

Of course we know they believe that they are "saving the world" and this presumably means that there is an estimate on how many lives this would save.

You seem to have thought about this - if energy bills double, how many deaths will this cause and how does this compare to the governments estimates on potential deaths that may (or may not) happen many decades, centuries into the future?

Do you know I think they may be pulling the wool over your eyes and just publish a target for window dressing.

Andy said...

It is just not true the subsidy - there is also a subsidy much greater for nuclear - we have to invest now otherwise we will be held ransom to Russia for gas - we are reaching of have reached peak oil - wake up fossil fuels are only going to get ever more expensive - it is vital we protect the vulnerable from these costs - insulation insulation insulation - total agree I can see no resolve to reach the fuel poverty target