Feb 24, 2021

The new “Fuel Poverty” strategy

The Government has updated its Fuel Poverty strategy.  The long-term targets remain unchanged since the last one, but there are a few nuances that are worth looking at.  Overall, the strategy applies to all tenures and is described as a “living document”.  There is no clear path to 2030 and it is expected the strategy will be updated regularly.  Nevertheless, it gives an indication on how policy and funding will be directed in the forthcoming years.

The target remains, “to ensure that as many fuel poor homes as is reasonably practicable achieve a minimum energy efficiency rating of Band C, by 2030.”  For Government statistical reporting there is a slight change of definition of fuel poor. It will now specifically refer to the EPC rating of a home, instead of the “higher than typical energy costs” definition previously used.  This seems a sensible move and ties in with lots of other domestic energy efficiency policies.

New set of principles

What’s new is a set of principles that will inform new policies:

Worst first –  “We plan to increase our focus on improving inefficient homes by multiple energy efficiency bands where appropriate. Although installing individual measures can be cost-effective, the scale of improvements to be delivered means there is real potential benefit in increasing homes directly from Bands E, F or G to Band C in one renovation.”  This looks like it is paving the way for whole house retrofits.

Cost effectiveness – “ensure policy decisions will reduce bills and improve lives over the long term. When we are designing policies which require entities other than Government to invest – for example, landlords – we should ensure the costs they face will be proportional to bill and carbon savings that could be achieved. However, both the fuel poverty and Net Zero targets mean that as a society we will need to make significant up-front investments in our housing stock.”

Vulnerability – this section aims to target particularly vulnerable groups.  Households with very old people, very young and with health conditions will be targeted

Sustainability – “ramp up the deployment of low carbon heating solutions throughout the 2020s. We do not see a role for new, first time fossil fuel central heating, as a long term sustainable solution for tackling fuel poverty”.  This is an interesting and welcome principle.  Achieving “EPC Band C or better for all homes” falls far short of net zero housing, and sometimes the target can lead to interventions that are not compatible with net zero housing.

Heating systems

Heat pumps get mentioned quite a lot.  The strategy states, “Some homes could see the installation of a central heating system for the first time, while others could receive heating system upgrades, or a new heat source including, for example, a heat pump being installed where appropriate.”

Hydrogen does not get a specific mention.

In addition, the strategy states that, “BEIS is working closely with Ofgem and industry to support the transition to a smarter, more flexible energy system.” These type of systems integrate items such as solar PV, battery storage and flexible energy tariffs that are intended to reduce UK CO2 emissions.  As part of the work, Government, “are considering how best to protect consumers, including the fuel poor” and are looking at how they can be incorporated into the SAP methodology.

Wellbeing

It’s good to see that wellbeing is mentioned many times as is local air quality.  There is specific recognition that COVID-19 symptoms “may make individuals more vulnerable to cold exacerbated ill-health.”

The strategy also states that “MHCLG are currently, as of 2020/21, reviewing the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). The HHSRS is the risk assessment tool used by local authorities to assess hazards in residential properties, including excess cold.”

If you would like assistance to develop a roadmap to net zero that takes this strategy into account, please get in touch:  https://shiftenvironment.co.uk/contact/