Halving energy bills would ensure households don’t suffer this winter, according to research by the Environmental Change Institute. Even with Ofgem’s recent price cap drop it’s estimated that bills will still likely be more expensive than last winter.

A group of data scientists, household energy specialists and fuel poverty experts at the Environmental Change Institute, (ECI) at the University of Oxford and Cambridge Architectural Research have exposed disturbing evidence of hardship as prices escalated and have identified the necessary government interventions that will provide the urgent support to low-income households for the coming winter, and beyond.

Energy prices in the UK continue to be very high, and in the absence of more Government help, millions of households will struggle without adequate energy for heating, hot water, cooking and other vital services.

A report by the ECI uses data from smart-enabled prepayment meter customers to explore how the Government can best target support to those in greatest need, and to describe the minimum level of support needed to prevent serious suffering this coming winter.

The report presents a package of measures to keep the fuel poor warmer this winter for the Government to adopt. It is:

  • Timely
  • Affordable
  • And desperately needed by millions of families in Great Britain.

Households in fuel poverty would switch to the tariff that existed in October 2020, before the price hikes, rather than the level of the present cap from Ofgem. Report author Dr Brenda Boardman, from the Environmental Change Institute, said: “This is an easy adjustment by the utilities and would result in 8m households being charged half as much as they are today for energy this winter. The Government has already put £8bn aside to help with fuel bills this year, so the funds are already available.”

The households that would benefit are:

  • all those on a prepayment meter
  • the recipients of the Warm Home Discount, which would be enhanced
  • all households that have had to switch off their gas heating and depend on electricity;
  • and the many people that need their electricity supply for medical equipment, such as hoists, nebulisers or charging a wheelchair.

Dr Brenda Boardman added: “This represents a real opportunity for the Government to focus on the needs of the fuel poor and ensure they have security of supply on a daily basis, without the risk of debt or disconnection. Our report develops effective policies by using new evidence from existing customers.”

Dr Jason Palmer, from Cambridge Architectural Research who undertook the data analysis, said:

“We were struck by the very painful choices many households in fuel poverty have to make every day. Around 6% of the 28,000 households whose energy use we examined have hardly any heating at all through the winter. They are juggling family finances and if they get it wrong then their health – in extreme cases their lives – are on the line.”

The research is co-ordinated by Dr Tina Fawcett and Dr Brenda Boardman of the ECI, University of Oxford. The analysis was undertaken by Dr Jason Palmer and Nicola Terry of Cambridge Architectural Research (CAR). The data came from Utilita and the funding was provided by Utilita Giving, the charitable arm of Utilita.  

This research links to the DESNZ Select Committee’s current consultation exercise on energy bills this winter, Preparing for the Winter

Go to the report