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Fuel Poverty - What is fuel poverty?

Find out more about the factors that contribute to fuel poverty and the help that might be available to you

What is fuel poverty?

Fuel poverty definition in England and Wales

Until recently, the usual definition of fuel poverty was that a household was considered to be in fuel poverty when it needed to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel – or energy as it is often called.

However, in June 2013, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)* published 'A framework for future action’ which set out the Government’s intention to adopt a new definition of fuel poverty for England.

This new definition states that a household is said to be in fuel poverty if:

  • They have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level), and

  • Were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.

This also uses a fuel poverty gap - i.e. the difference between a household’s 'modelled' (average) bill and what their bill would need to be for them to no longer be fuel poor.

Read the Department for Energy and Climate Change's Fuel Poverty framework for future action

* DECC was closed on 14 July 2016 by the Prime Minister Theresa May. Energy issues will now be covered by a new department called Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Fuel poverty definition in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still largely use the old definition: that a person is living in fuel poverty if, to heat their home to a satisfactory standard, they need to spend more than 10 per cent of their household income on fuel.

Key fuel poverty factors

The key factors that can contribute to fuel poverty are:

  • The energy efficiency of the property (and therefore, the energy required to heat and power the home)

  • The cost of energy

  • Household income.

Number of households in fuel poverty is rising

The number of households experiencing fuel poverty is rising at the moment for several reasons:

  • The cost of energy keeps increasing, which means we need to spend more of our income on paying these bills

  • Many of us live in draughty homes, from which lots of heat escapes, and rely on heating systems that are old and inefficient. And because we do not have much money to spare, it is difficult to make our homes more energy efficient, which would reduce our bills

  • The general cost of living is rising and this is also putting pressure on our finances so we have less money to go around. 

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