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Government urged to implement fuel poverty policy reforms

NEA charity claims an increase of excess winter deaths attributed to cold housing between last winter has highlighted a need for fresh investment in energy efficient heating

Government is being urged to rethink its policy on tackling fuel poor homes over concerns at statistics showing an increased number of excess deaths last winter.

The calls have been raised both by trade bodies and charities working to mark the occasion of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day on February 15.

Joint provisional findings based on ONS findings that have been published by the National Energy Action (NEA) charity and climate change-focused think tank EG3 said that just under 17,000 excess winter heat deaths attributable to cold housing were recorded during winter 2017/2018.

This figure was up from 11,478 during the same time the previous year. The ONS figures were applied to a World Health Organisation calculation that attributes 30 per cent of excess winter deaths to cold housing conditions.

Pedro Guertler, E3G’s programme leader for energy efficiency, argued that the UK government should consider reinstating a policy of capital investment in its next Spending Review to better improve energy efficiency in the housing stock.

NEA chief executive Adam Scorer added that it was possible to do more to prevent deaths and negative health impacts from fuel poor homes, particularly in vulnerable groups such as younger and older people.

He said, “With fuel bills set to rise again, without urgent local and national action, we are worried the same will keep happening each winter”.

The Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) trade body has also backed calls for government to reform its policy on fuel poverty through a focus on better targeting vulnerable people to new heating systems.

EUA head of external affairs Isaac Occhipinti cited a 2017 report from the association pushing for subsidies to encourage first-time take-up of gas central heating at properties near the gas-grid.

The association’s findings argued that 140,000 households without central heating could see reductions of up to £920 annually from their bills by connecting to the grid.

A report from parliament’s Committee on Fuel Poverty that was published in November concluded that government efforts to improve energy efficiency in fuel poor homes are falling short of official targets and wider low carbon ambitions set out in the UK Clean Growth Strategy.

Key recommendations from the report included urging the Treasury to assign £1 billion in funds to support a new Clean Growth Challenge fund that can run between 2019 and 2021 to ensure more energy efficient homes.

The findings serve to highlight the importance of ensuring sufficient funding approaches are in place to try and realise more innovative heating approaches both through gas and electric solutions.

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