Climate Rush investigate the reality of fuel poverty in East London

This is cross-posted with permission from Climate Rush East

Fuel Poverty & Climate Change in East London – What does it mean & what can we do about it?

Fuel Poverty is a term that is quickly becoming embedded into our cultural conscious. It succinctly describes the situation that the majority of us find ourselves in – inadequate income to pay to heat, light, cook and wash in our homes. The Department of Energy and Climate Change considered a household to be in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel for adequate heating.

DECC state that adequate heating is usually 21 degrees centigrade for the main living area and 18 degrees centigrade for unoccupied rooms.

There are three main causes of fuel poverty: high energy prices, poor energy efficiency in the home and low house hold income.

In East London there are a vast number of homes that energy inefficient, with older housing stock that is poorly insulated.

This could be easily improved and in fact Hackney Council are eligible to apply for grants to insulate homes in the borough.

Have they done so? No, they have continually missed the deadlines for the applications. For no obvious reason. This is totally unacceptable. Hackney Council have a duty of care to all residents in their region, they are being negligent by not pursuing any endeavour that would improve residents’ quality of life.

Today the ONS (Office for National Statistics) have realised the figure for Consumer Price Indices (CPI) for December. This figure represents overall changes in the prices of goods that are consumed in the UK, which includes energy bills, in other words UK inflation.

CPI is 2.7%. This is the same figure as the last 3 months, however that is a 2.7% increase on the previous month – it is just a steady increase.

The ONS state that the biggest upward influence, that ensured that the figure stayed at nearly 3%, was price hike in gas and electric bills.

Electricity prices were up 3.9% compared with December 2011, while gas prices were 5.2% higher.

The price of energy set to escalate, due to the big six energy companies acting like a cartel and resources becoming scarcer, all we can be sure of is that we will continue to struggle to heat our homes as changes in weather patterns mean the coldest winter in a 100 years; for the second timesince 2010.

Fuel poverty is directly linked to climate change. It because of the bad choices we are making around energy sources that we are in the situation where we have a lack of choice and no control. If we invested in renewable energy, particularly community owned energy, then the price of energy would substantially decrease.

Not only because we would be providing the energy for ourselves, so cutting out the middle man, but also because the source would not be finite and therefore likely to increase in cost due to scarcity.

Transition Town Lewes is a perfect example of community owned energy – they have set up a solar panels (pvc) in their town that they have all contributed to paying for, and all the energy that the panels harness is shared between them all. Plus any surplus energy that they produce can be stored or put into the National Grid for which they receive payment from the government.

It is hard to see an immediate escape – how can we say no to these increasing and unaffordable prices if we are unable to access community owned energy? Direct action could be taken when we refuse to pay our energy bills but the risk of being cut off completely may be too much or you may be on a meter which means you have no choice but to pay for your energy in advance.

Fuel Poverty Action are doing great work highlighting this and demanding that the government intervene and stop the big six energy companies exploiting the public’s lack of choice.

Climate Rush will be taking action in the coming weeks, working with other concerned groups in East london – so watch this space for how to get involved to take much needed action on Fuel Poverty!

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