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The Energy Crisis and Fuel Poverty

Blog by David

Sustainable Merton Community Champion

If the UK is going to achieve Net-Zero in a just and inclusive way, we need to fundamentally change how we heat our homes.

The recent energy crisis has shown that the price of our energy is far from secure. As we move towards colder temperatures, consumers are facing the reality of higher energy prices and a greater prevalence of fuel poverty. Over the coming years, the UK needs to change how it uses energy, while ensuring that this transition is inclusive for everyone. However, there are ongoing challenges that need to be addressed:

1) In the UK we are highly dependent on gas for heating our homes. Around three-quarters of domestic energy consumption in the UK is gas (such as space heating, water heating and cooking), with over 77% of homes heated using gas. This number is even higher in Merton as, according to Merton Council’s Climate Strategy and Action Plan, 98% of the borough’s 88,000 homes have gas heating. Furthermore, this Plan indicates that “Well over half of [these] homes are not yet efficient enough to make the necessary move away from natural gas central heating to low carbon alternatives”. This leaves us exposed to energy price changes and dependent on expensive technology to reduce the carbon emissions created from our heating.

2) Homes in the UK are amongst the most poorly insulated in Western Europe. Talking on the BBC Podcast episode ‘More or Less’ Jonathan Volt of Buildings Performance Institute Europe discusses how the UK insulation in walls and windows are less efficient than many other countries in Western Europe. The leaky housing stock is an ongoing barrier to keeping our homes warm without excessive carbon emissions. In its recent report, the energy efficiency infrastructure group (EEIG) identified that an additional investment of £7.4bn into energy efficiency is needed this parliament to achieve the Climate Change Committee’s ‘Balanced Pathway’ to net zero.

3) 13% of the households in England are already considered fuel poor. The consequence of high energy consumption in the home, with increasing energy prices, is the increased risk of fuel poverty, putting more pressure on strained household finances. The recent gas crisis has underlined the need for the government to act. As well as promoting a more secure and reliable energy system, the government must commit to insulating UK homes. As the hosts of the upcoming COP26, the UK has the chance to be a leader - establishing a clear direction for a just and inclusive change.


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