As nights draw in and temperatures plummet, for many households across the UK the start of the winter period brings with it some very difficult decisions. The “heat or eat” dilemma represents a devastating choice for vulnerable customers, and with a series of rising energy prices across the market it is likely that this winter will see many households forced to make this tough decision. While various schemes and initiatives are being rolled out to help bridge the fuel poverty gap, are energy suppliers really doing enough to ensure they are protecting their vulnerable customers?

Last month (November), the Committee on Fuel Poverty released its latest annual report, which said overall progress on tackling fuel poor households is “stalling”. The committee, established by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is tasked with monitoring the government’s progress on its 2015 fuel poverty strategy.

The fuel poverty strategy includes a statutory fuel poverty target for “as many fuel poor households as reasonably practicable to achieve a minimum energy efficiency rating of a band C by 2030”. It also has two interim milestones of band E by 2020 and band D by 2025. This phased approach follows the principle of prioritising assistance to those in the deepest levels of fuel poverty – “worst first”.

The committee estimates that £17.1 billion of funding will be needed to implement the fuel poverty strategy compared with the £15.4 billion estimate in its 2017 annual report (see table). But as well as an increase in funding, the report also recommends better targeting on energy bill subsidies for low income and pensioner customers – such as the winter fuel payment (WFP) and Warm Home Discount schemes – to help those most at risk with their fuel costs.

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