Back to:

JSNA Home

JSNA Contents

JSNA Search

Within: Built Environment, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Related to: Energy at Home, Socio-economic Inequality, Out of Work Benefits, Ill Health and Disability 

Key Facts:

  • In 2012 15.7% of all households were experiencing fuel poverty in Bath and North East Somerset under the 10% definition, slightly higher than the England average of 14.7%.
  • There is a great deal of variation in the extent of fuel poverty (under 10% definition) witin Bath and North East Somerset, with the proportion of households in fuel poverty in different Lower Super Output Areas ranging between 5.6 - 30.5%.
  • In 2011 71% of households in fuel poverty in B&NES had incomes of under £10,000 per anum.
  •  In 2012 30% of the respondents to the 2013 Voicebox Residents Survey  said that they felt cold at home in the winter on a daily or almost daily basis.
  • 43% of the respondents to the 2013 Voicebox Survey outlined that they would get advice from friends and family about how to keep their homes warm.

Definitions 1

The key elements in determining whether a household is fuel poor or not are:

• Income

• Fuel prices

• Fuel consumption (which is dependent on the dwelling characteristics and the lifestyle of the household)

There are two main definitions of fuel poverty.

10 per cent definition

Under the 10 per cent definition, a household is said to be fuel poor if it needs to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on fuel to maintain an adequate level of warmth.

Although the emphasis in the definition is on heating the home, modelled fuel costs in the definition of fuel poverty also include spending on heating water, lights and appliance usage and cooking costs. 

The Fuel Poverty Ratio is defined as:

Fuel poverty ratio = Modelled fuel costs (i.e. modelled consumption x price) divided by income

If this ratio is greater than 0.1 then the household is Fuel Poor.

Low income high cost definition

Under the Low Income High Cost definition a household is considered to be fuel poor where:

  • They have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level)
  • Were they to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.

The depth of fuel poverty amongst these households is measured in terms of a fuel poverty gap, which represents the difference between the modelled fuel bill for each household, and the reasonable cost threshold for the household. This is summed for all households that have both low income and high costs to give an aggregate fuel poverty gap.

What does the data say? 

National Figures 2

10 per cent definition3

It is estimated that in 2012 there were were 3.1 million households, 14.7%, in England that were in fuel poverty according to the 10% definition. 4 

According to the 10 % definition of fuel poverty in 2011 there were 4.5 million households in the UK in fuel poverty, down by 0.25 million from 2010.

Numbers in fuel poverty in the uk bar graph

Figure 1: Fuel poverty in the UK in millions, between 1996 and 2011 (according to the 10 per cent definition)5

(Click here to see a larger image of Figure 1)

In England in 2011 there were 3.2 million fuel poor households (equivalent to 14.6 per cent of all households), 0.3 million lower than in 2010.

Numbers in fuel poverty in the england bar graph 10 percent

Figure 2: Fuel poverty in England in millions, between 1996 and 2011 (according to the 10 per cent definition)6

(Click here to see a larger image of Figure 2)

Low income high cost definition

Under the low income high cost measure, 2.6 million households were fuel poor in England in 2011 (approximately 11.7 per cent of English households), a decrease of 0.1 million from 2010.

Numbers in fuel poverty in the england bar graph low income

Figure 3: Fuel poverty in England in millions, between 1996 and 2011 (according to low income high cost definition)7

(Click here to see a larger image of Figure 3)

The 10% indicator shows a larger drop in the number of fuel poor households, than the low income high costs measure. This is mainly because the 10 per cent measure is absolute, whereas the LIHC is relative.

The decrease in fuel poverty in England between 2010 and 2011 was the result of a rise in income, and a reduction in energy use, through improvements in the energy efficiency of housing. These two things combined to offset the price increases seen in 2011.

The aggregate fuel poverty gap however, increased in real terms from 2010 by £22 million to £1.15 billion, and the average gap increased by £26 to £448, largely reflecting the increase in energy prices.

People vulnerable to the impacts of fuel poverty 8

In England, around 73 per cent of households were classified as vulnerable in 2011. A vulnerable household is one that contains the elderly, children or someone who is disabled or has a long term illness.

Income 9

In 2011, average incomes (before housing costs) rose from the previous year, with the median income rising by 0.7 per cent, from £23,240 to £23,420. However, unlike the change between 2009 and 2010, incomes did not rise equally across all households. The poorest 40 per cent of households saw the largest rises in incomes between 2010 and 2011, of between three and four per cent. Higher income groups saw more modest increases, and even decreases.

Given the increases seen in the lower income groups, we would expect to see a reduction in fuel poverty according to the 10  per cent definition between 2010 and 2011, as these groups typically make up the vast majority of fuel poor households. This decrease in fuel poverty was observed.

Under the low income high costs measure, housing costs are subtracted from the income of each household. Inevitably, this will make those that own their own home (and so have no housing costs) better off relative to those with rent and have mortgage payments. Between 2010 and 2011, the median after housing costs (AHC) income increased slightly, from £19,130 to £19,210. Whilst incomes remained similar or increased slightly across most income groups, they fell sharply for those in the bottom income decile. This is in sharp contrast to the changes seen in before housing costs (BHC) income.

Fuel poverty rate is highest among the unemployed population for both measures of fuel poverty. This suggests that being unemployed increases the risks of being fuel poor. However, only around a tenth of fuel poor households (under both measures) are unemployed.

Fuel prices 10

Under the 10 per cent definition, prices have typically been the most influential factor in movements in fuel poverty. Between 2004 and 2009, prices rose at a greater rate than incomes, thus leading to an increase in fuel poverty.

Energy prices 1996-2012 - line graph

Figure 4: Domestic energy prices and the Retail Prices Index, 1996-201211

Figure 4 shows retail prices of domestic energy since 1996, and compares these against the prices of the "typical" basket of goods and services that make up the Retail Prices Index. As this graph shows, 2010 marked the first calendar year in over a decade that domestic energy prices decreased from the previous year. This was despite a rise in general inflation over this period. However, prices rose sharply again between 2010 and 2011.

Fuel consumption 12

The average energy efficiency of households,as indicated by the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP09), increased in 2011, rising to 56.8 from 55.2 in 2010. Although the measurement of SAP has now changed (from SAP05 to SAP09), making it hard to directly compare this with previous years, this appears to continue a trend of steady SAP improvements in recent years.

The energy efficiency levels of dwellings are a key driver in the propensity of a household to be fuel poor. Figure 5 and 6 shows the fuel poverty rates by different SAP rating bands under the 10 per cent and the low income high cost measures respectively. In terms of the SAP bands A represents  a high level of energy efficiency through to G a very low level of energy efficiency.

Fuel poverty-energy efficiency - 10 per cent graph

Figure 5: Fuel poverty under the 10 per cent measure, by SAP rating bands, 201113

Fuel poverty-energy efficiency- lihc graph

Figure 6: Fuel poverty under the low income high costs measure, by SAP rating bands, 201114

Pre-war properties generally have lower energy efficiency standards and therefore higher fuel costs. In 2011, households living in properties built prior to 1919 were three times as likely to be fuel poor as households living in properties built post 1964 under both the 10 per cent and the low income high costs measure.

The winter months falling in 2011 (i.e. the end of the 2010/11 winter and the start of the 2011/12 one) were mild relative to previous years. This resulted in a much lower number of days requiring heating, and thus also contributed to lower energy consumption.

Household composition 15

after housing costs) and fuel costs, are equivalised to be representative of the number, and composition of the occupants of the households

In 2011, half of all fuel poor households under the 10 per cent measure came from single person households, and a further one in five were couples over 60.

Over a quarter of all lone parent households are in fuel poverty under the low income high costs measure in 2011, compared to 15 per cent of couples with dependent children.

Regional variations in fuel poverty 16

Fuel poverty rates differ notably across the country under both measures.

Under the 10 per cent measure of fuel poverty, in 2011, the North East had the highest fuel poverty rate, with around 19 per cent of households needing to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel costs (Figure 7). In contrast, London had the lowest fuel poverty rate at 9 per cent. The South West was the fourth lowest out of the nine regions with 15 per cent. 

Fuel poverty -regional variations- 10 per cent graph

Figure 7: Fuel poverty under the 10 per cent measure and average annual income by English regions, 201117

Fuel poverty -regional variations-lihc graph

Figure 8: Fuel poverty according to the low income high cost measure by English regions, 201118

Looking at the average annual incomes across the regions, it is clear that there is an inverse relationship between the average income in a region and the associated level of fuel poverty in that region. In general, the fuel poverty rates are highest in the regions with the lowest average annual income levels.

Bath and North East Somerset 

According to the 10% definition of fuel poverty there were 11, 910 households in fuel poverty in Bath and North East Somerset in 2012, 15.7% of households, this is an increase compared to 2011 when there were thought to be 10,002 households in fuel poverty according to the 10% definition, 13.7% of households. The 2012 B&NES proportion (15.7%) was slightly lower than that of the South West overall which was 16.5%, but higher than the England average which was 14.7%. 19 20 

Figure 9: Proportion of people experiencing fuel poverty in Local Authority areas in England in 2012 (10% definition) 21 22

There was however a great deal of variation in the extent of fuel poverty in 2012 according to the 10% definition within Bath and North East Somerset, with the proportion of households in fuel poverty in different Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) ranging between 30.5% - 5.6%. 

Figure 10: Proportion of people experiencing fuel poverty in Lower Super Output Areas in B&NES in 2012 (10% definition) 23 24

In 2012 in B&NES there were 21 LSOAs where 22-32% of the population were defined as being in fuel poverty under the 10% definition. These were the LSOAs with the highest proportions of the population in fuel poverty. 25 26

Table 1: Proportion of people experiencing fuel poverty in Lower Super Output Areas in B&NES in 2012 (10% definition) 27

According to the low income high costs measure of fuel poverty there were 7,459 households in fuel poverty in Bath and North East Somerset in 2011, 10.2% of all households in the area. This proportion is similar to that for the South West.  28

Again, there is however a great deal of variation in the extent of fuel poverty according to the low income high costs measure within Bath and North East Somerset, with the proportion of households in fuel poverty in different LSOAs ranging between 26% - 3%. 29

The House Conditions Survey 30 

The House Conditions Survey  asked a range of questions relating to fuel poverty and estimated that 11,350 (17.3%) of occupied, private sector, dwellings in fuel poverty in B&NES compared to ~21% based on the findings of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s 2011 report 31

  • In terms of housing sector, owner/occupied houses have the greatest rate (18.3%), compared with 13.5% in the private rented sector. 32 
  • 71% of households in fuel poverty had incomes of under £10,000 per anum, A small number had incomes over 20,000, which is likely to be a trend driven by recent fuel price increases.
  • Fuel poverty is associated with receipt of means tested benefits. 25% of households in receipt of a benefit were in fuel poverty, compared to 15% of houses not on benefits.

Fuel bills 33 

As part of the survey residents were asked to specify by what means they pay for gas and electricity. Different payment methods usually incur different tariffs, which can compound the issues of affordability and fuel poverty.

Payment method

Number of dwellings

Per cent

Direct debit

47,620

72.8%

On-line

3,280

5.0%

Monthly billing

8,140

12.5%

Key card or meter

2,630

4.0%

Other

3,700

5.7%

 

Occupied private sector dwellings

65,370

100.0%

Table 2: Electricity bill by payment type in Bath and North East Somerset (House Conditions Survey 2011) 34 

What does the community say?

Voicebox Survey 35 36 37

The large scale Voicebox Resident Survey aims to provide an insight into Bath and North East Somerset and its local communities and to capture resident’s views on their local area and council services. The questionnaires are posted to 3,150 addresses selected randomly in the local authority area. Selected respondents also have the opportunity to complete the survey online.

The 2010 survey overall generated 1310 responses, a response rate of 42%. In 2012 a total of 850 residents completed it, a response rate of 27%, and 2013 a total of 1,189 residents completed it, a response rate of 38%

The large scale Voicebox Resident Survey carried out in 2010, 2012 and 2013 asked a number of questions relating to fuel poverty and help with keeping homes warm.  

 

How often people felt cold at home in the winter - 2010 and 2012

  • In 2012 27% of respondents said never (30% in 2010)
  • 11% of respondents in 2012 sated less than once a month (26% in 2010)
  • In 2012 13% said once or twice a month (11% in 2010)
  • 19%  of respondents in 2012 stated once or twice a week (14% in 2010)
  • In 2012 30% said daily or almost daily (19% in 2010)

Using less fuel than needed due to cost in the past 12 months - 2010 and 2012

  • 58% said they did in 2012 (56% in 2010)

Advice on keeping homes warm - 2013

When Voicebox respondents in 2013 were asked about where they would get advice about keeping their home warm, 43% of respondents outlined that they would get advice from friends and family. Other common sources of advice highlighted would be: council connect magazine (32%); leaflets through the door (31%); council website (29%) and GP surgeries (26%).

fuel_poverty_-_voicebox_2013_-_advice_about_keeping_homes_warm

Figure 11: Where 2013 Voicebox respondents would get advice on how to keep their homes warm

What can we practically do?

Climate Just Web Tool 38

Some key actions outlined by the Climate Just Web Tool for addressing fuel poverty:

  • Identify those living in fuel poverty - If local authorities and their partners understand where fuel poor households are located and the specific reasons for their fuel poverty, this can help to target them for programmes such as home improvement initiatives. Working in partnership with others may help to overcome some of the difficulties in identifying specific groups who are more likely to experience fuel poverty and problems caused by data protection issues.

  • Provide relevant information to individuals and households -Train a broad range of relevant front line staff in energy efficiency, fuel poverty and maximisation of income. Distribute energy efficiency leaflets to residents in your area. Improve private sector tenants' knowledge of their rights to request energy saving measures, as they are often unaware of their legal rights.

     

  • Raise awareness of national schemes and policies - Raise awareness of the financial support for fuel payments available. As at 2014: Winter Fuel Payments, Cold Weather Payments and Warm Home Discount Scheme.  

  • Raise awareness of the grant schemes for improving energy efficiency - Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is an energy efficiency programme for both homeowners and people living in privately rented accommodation. Green Deal finance is a ‘pay as you save’ loan designed to help householders reduce the up-front cost of making their homes more energy efficient. Consideration should be given to how different households can make best use of the schemes on offer.
  • Raise awareness of the fuel poverty problem and available solutions among professionals - Work with Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) to support them in improving their properties and helping their fuel poor tenants. Alert private landlords to the fact that the 2011 Energy Act provides for regulations to improve the energy efficiency performance of the private rented sector.

More information can be found on the Climate Just Web Tool