Fuel poverty set to rise by forcing electricity over cheaper gas

Fuel poverty set to rise by forcing electricity over cheaper gas

by Andrew Montford
article from Tuesday 23, April, 2019

WE HAVE JUST learned something of the human cost of the government’s increasingly absurd energy policies. It’s not a pretty story. Buried in depths of a rather obscure statistical report, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has given details of how much energy households use for heating and lighting compared to the amount that they actually need.

Astonishingly, 69 per cent of households consume less energy than they need, with an average underspend of 10 per cent. This may overstate the case somewhat, but it’s clear that there is a real problem for those in fuel poverty, who underspend by 20 per cent. It’s particularly acute for households with children.

Why should the poor find it so hard to heat their homes properly? It is probably because they disproportionately rely on electricity to stay warm. This is particularly a problem in Scotland, where a higher proportion of households use electricity for heating than in the rest of the UK, a legacy of past efforts to soak up surplus output of hydropower stations.                                                                                                                                                               

Electrical heating is often used in flats because it’s simpler – if everyone runs on gas then you need shared flues. Unfortunately, electrical heating is much, much more expensive than gas, and the government’s own figures suggest that the gap is going to widen quickly in the future.

The data thus suggests that many poor households are being priced out of the ability to keep themselves warm.

And the problem looks set to become much more widespread, because the government is forcing more and more people to use electricity rather than gas. First, they have mandated the use of condensing boilers, which won’t work with shared flues, leaving housebuilders and those whose boilers have broken down with no choice but to go electric. What is worse, the government has recently announced that new homes will soon not be allowed to have connections to the gas grid at all, so the number of people burdened with hugely expensive electrical heating is going to skyrocket.

From their taxpayer-subsidised flats in Westminster, the political classes are probably entirely unaware of the pain that they are causing. Why worry about what’s happening in Glasgow or Gateshead when you can virtue signal to the world by setting crazy decarbonisation targets for 2050? But as politicians across Europe are finding, eventually the pips squeak, and then there will be a day of reckoning.

Andrew Montford is the deputy director of the Global Warming Policy Forum.


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