Fuel Poverty in Wales
The UK and Welsh Assembly Government have a legal duty under the UK’s 2000 warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act to do everything reasonably practicable to eliminate fuel poverty. The average household energy bills have increased by 33 per cent in the last year, exceeding £1,200 per annum and twice the average bill five years ago. High energy prices in Wales are compounded by poor housing stock quality, high incidence or low income and poverty in addition to households’ lack of access to gas mains.
Nearly a quarter of households in Wales experience fuel poverty, resulting in 320,000 households having to spend 10 per cent or more of their income on energy to heat their homes adequately. This may result in a choice between heating and powering their homes as well as eating properly. In Wales, householders pay 5 per cent more for their electricity than the rest of the UK with 50,547 households in debt to electricity suppliers and 46,588 in debt to gas suppliers.
The impact of fuel poverty goes beyond financial consequences. Living in fuel poverty can affect people’s health, increasing the risk of common ailments such as colds, flu and respiratory infections including bronchitis. This has resulted in excess of 1500 winter deaths per year in Wales, with older people particularly susceptible. There are indirect effects; stress in children and adults and long-term depression and anxiety, social exclusion, health and life chances of families and individuals and educational attainment. Moreover there are broader economic implications for education, employment and health services in Wales.
The Welsh Assembly Government has legally binding targets to eliminate fuel poverty among vulnerable households by 2010, in all social housing by 2012 and every household by 2018. With an increase in energy prices, the Welsh Assembly Government is unlikely to meets its target for tackling fuel poverty amongst the vulnerable by 2010. Therefore, to ensure that the Welsh Assembly Government gets back on track, key stakeholders have come together to develop a fuel poverty charter to highlight the urgent action that needs to be taken to bring households out of fuel poverty. We believe that no one in Wales should have to live in a cold home.