Countryside faces fuel poverty crisis

21st August 2017 | Rural Energy

People living in rural areas have been left behind by government drives to make homes more energy efficient, charities have warned. This leaves them vulnerable to rising energy prices. Research by National Energy Action and the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows that rural areas are five years behind urban areas in the energy efficiency of homes – and are paying nearly 55% more for their fuel as a result.

The charities have called on ministers to establish new energy-efficiency initiatives to help people reduce their energy consumption, particularly those in fuel poverty, who cannot afford to heat their homes.

British Gas

Year of rising energy prices – British Gas announced a hike of 12.5% to electricity bills earlier this month – have been partly offset by programmes to make homes more energy efficient.

Households in cities used nearly 22.8% less energy per square meter in 2015 than they did in 2008, according to figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government last month, thanks to initiatives such as the Energy Company Obligation, where energy companies subsidise installation of insulation, modern boilers and heating systems.

Yet in rural areas people have not benefited to the same extent. The charities’ analysis of the latest government data shows that in 2015 rural homes were at the same standards as urban homes in 2010. As a result, energy bills are much higher in the countryside.

In 2015, the average annual energy bill was £1,324.50 for a rural household – £466.-0 more than for people in cities. The fuel poverty gap – the extra money that people need to spend to heat their home properly – is £726 for rural homes compared with £303 in urban areas.

“We know that, far from being a rural idyll, rural communities can suffer from chronic levels of fuel poverty, which has negative impacts on vulnerable people’s health and quality of life,” said Peter Smith, director of policy and research at National Energy Action. “We also know why this happens: they typically live in harder-to-treat, energy-inefficient properties with solid walls.”

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