One million more homes in England could be in line for help to cut their energy bills under the government’s latest strategy to tackle fuel poverty.
Ministers plan to change the way the government calculates whether a household is fuel poor, after admitting that much more needs to be done to reach its own fuel poverty targets.
Under the government’s current definition, 2.55m households live in fuel poverty because they have low income relative to high energy bills.
Under the new definition about 3.66m households will be considered fuel poor because they meet the existing criteria and also live in draughty homes with low energy efficiency ratings.
Chris Skidmore, the energy minister, said: “The best long-term solution to addressing fuel poverty is to improve household energy efficiency.
“That is why we have set the fuel poverty target for England, and committed in our manifesto, to improve the energy efficiency of as many fuel poor households as we can,” he said.
The government plans to increase the energy efficiency standards of all fuel-poor homes to a C-banding on the energy performance certificate rating scale by 2030.
Only between 11% and 12% of fuel-poor households live in homes which reach this energy efficiency grade.
“Steady progress is being made, but much more needs to be done [to] end the blight of cold homes,” Skidmore said.
The government opened a consultation on its fuel poverty strategy after finding that the number of children living in fuel-poor homes has climbed by 12% from 2010.
National Energy Action, the fuel poverty charity, said it plans to use the consultation to urge the government to increase its public spending to meet its fuel poverty targets.
It estimates that the government will need to spend an extra £15.8bn to bridge the gap between the current standards of household energy efficiency and its targets.
The fuel poverty committee, the government’s official advisers, has suggested near-term proposals to help reduce the funding shortfall to just under £9bn.
But about £3bn of extra public spending will still be needed over the next six years if government hopes to meet its interim 2025 fuel poverty target.
Adam Scorer, NEA’s chief executive, said efforts to tackle energy efficiency are “flatlining”.
“It is important that government recognises that we are off track. Unless it commits greater, central investment to improve the homes of the fuel poor, fuel poverty targets will be meaningless and ambitions to achieve net zero carbon will be fanciful,” he said.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is putting £6bn into energy efficiency and £300m to reduce winter energy bills for 2m low-income households every year. It has also capped the price of standard energy tariffs.
But the NEA said that at this rate it would take 96 years for the government to reach its own targets to reduce fuel poverty.
Government figures published last week revealed that efforts to end fuel poverty and energy waste by making the UK’s draughty homes more efficient have collapsed by almost 85%.
The report revealed that the number of energy efficiency upgrades has fallen to an average of 10,000 a month for the six months to the end of May, less than a sixth of the upgrades undertaken in 2014.