Fuel poverty needs to be debated

Published:  23 March, 2017

Mike Foster responds to a recent Dimplex comment on the Energy & Utilities Alliance's (EUA) fuel poverty report.

I was delighted to see Dimplex’s product marketing director, Chris Stammers, help highlight EUA’s recent report – Fuel Poverty: A Connected Solution – as this issue needs to be debated. With four million households in fuel poverty, all options to reduce this should be considered.

I agree with Mr Stammers when he states that a disproportionate number of households in fuel poverty currently use direct electric heating, nearly one in four according to his figures. I also agree with him that those using electric storage heaters are more likely to be in fuel poverty than those using mains gas. With electricity prices rising faster than gas, this will only get worse. And I agree with what he says about the unnecessarily high heating bills for those using direct electric heating.

With this in mind, I would love to read the independent research he mentions so that it can be incorporated into our thinking around fuel poverty solutions.

I do have one note of discord. Mr Stammers criticises the EUA for basing data on standard tariff electricity. We did, precisely in a way that addresses his comments about the high costs of direct electric heating, which would use electricity based on the standard tariff.

However, on page 18 of the report – where we transparently state the unit prices used in our study – we say: “The cost of electric heating could be reduced if the homeowner is able to take advantage of an Economy 7 tariff.” I’m not sure what else we could have done to reinforce his points about direct electric costs and the benefits of storage heaters.

I’m pleased there is so much agreement. Our report is a contribution to an important debate on fuel poverty and if you haven’t yet read it, you can find it at www.eua.org.uk/resources/11/?.

Mike Foster is chief executive of the Energy & Utilities Alliance

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