A new report demands urgent action on homes hit hardest by fuel poverty during the worsening cost of living crisis.

The North has a home energy efficiency mountain to climb, with poorly insulated homes costing tenants at least £680 more this year than they would if properly insulated. That’s the finding from The Northern Housing Consortium’s (NHC) annual Northern Housing Monitor report, which reveals that 3.8m homes across the North fall beneath the key energy efficiency standard of EPC C.

The NHC is calling on the Government to use next week’s Autumn Statement to boost investment in existing homes. The organisation is urging Jeremy Hunt to commit the balance of energy efficiency investment pledged in the Conservative Manifesto, investing a further £4bn to create a long-term programme of investment for homes across the North of England that are hit hardest by fuel poverty. This investment amounts to less than 5% of the estimated cost of the Energy Price Guarantee this year[1].

The NHC report indicates a continued need to prioritise retrofitting existing homes with effective insulation measures so that they use less energy: controlling bills for the long term and contributing to the UK’s energy security.

According to the findings of the report, achieving energy efficiency now presents a critical Northern housing challenge, with the NHC report revealing:

  • One in six Northern households were in fuel poverty before the latest energy price rises, with the region home to a third of England’s fuel-poor households.
  • Reaching Band C by 2035 requires retrofitting one home every 2 minutes.
  • Going into this winter the average Band D household will pay £680 more for energy, compared to an EPC Band C home, this cost rises to £1,249 for Band E and a staggering £1,765 for Band F.

Fuel poverty is an extensive problem across the North, especially in rural areas. The government’s statutory fuel poverty target for England is to ensure that as many fuel-poor households as reasonably practicable achieve a minimum energy efficiency rating of Band C by 2030, with a D target by 2025.

The statistic of one in six  Northern households estimated to be in fuel poverty in 2020 is likely to have increased sharply in the past 12 months, with the Committee for Climate Change suggesting that an additional 2 to 4 million households may be pushed into fuel poverty.

The NHC report found a high level of variation in the rates of fuel poverty between regions. By government calculations, the percentage of households in the North experiencing fuel poverty in each local authority ranges between 10% to 20%. This is higher than most local authorities in southern England.

One of the highest regional rates is in Yorkshire and the Humber (17.5 per cent), a region with a median income under £23,500. It also has the lowest share of overall homes reaching fuel energy efficiency bands A-C, supporting the suggestion that fuel poverty may have increased across the region.

Even before recent price rises, all three regions of Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West and the North East, had an incidence of fuel poverty above the England average, with Yorkshire and the Humber having the second highest proportion of fuel poverty after the West Midlands.

The NHC’s chief executive, Tracy Harrison, said: “It’s very clear that energy efficiency is now as much a social challenge as a climate challenge. Whilst the introduction of the Energy Price Guarantee offers some relief and short-term support, it is also expensive for Government and will now be reduced in April. A long-term solution is required, not a temporary sticking plaster  – ramping up existing programmes will build on the North’s emerging retrofit success stories, cutting energy use and waste for good.”

Bringing homes in the North up to Band C energy efficiency standard requires retrofitting at least 270,000 homes annually to 2035. This is over 700 homes a day or one home every 2 minutes. According to the NHC, achieving the target of decarbonising the North’s homes by 2035 could generate 77,000 direct jobs in the North and 111,000 indirect jobs across the UK.

Tracy Harrison added: “The only way to get to the root of the problem is to tackle it head-on, and our recommendation is that at next week’s Autumn Statement, the Government should accelerate the remaining £4.3bn of manifesto energy efficiency commitments to create a long-term programme of investment in the North’s homes. The cost of the energy price guarantee this year is estimated at £100bn. So, if firming up a commitment of £4.3bn towards maximising energy efficiency in homes that need it the most represents less than 5% of that, it has to make sound economic and environmental sense to do so?”

[1] Source: IFS: https://ifs.org.uk/articles/response-energy-price-guarantee

To download a copy of the NHC’s Northern Housing Monitor click here.

For more information, contact Nathan Lane on 07447 921654 or nathan@campfirepr.com