An independent report published today highlights the continued issue of fuel poverty in the UK. Professor John Hills of the London School of Economics defines fuel poverty, looks at realistic targets associated with tackling the problem and discusses the effectiveness of different policy interventions.

Back in 2000, Parliament agreed, with all-party support, that fuel poverty should be eradicated as far as reasonably practicable within 15 years. Yet the latest official fuel poverty figures show that more than 4 million households in England alone are living in fuel poverty, compared to 1.2 million in 2004.

With the issue worsening as the years go by, and with increasing fuel costs and harsher winters adding to the problem, Hills’s Getting the measure of fuel poverty report outlines a way beyond the way things are currently managed. Hills describes that fuel poverty is currently measured through a system that is both “flawed and unhelpful.”

The report proposes a new way to define fuel poverty, separating the extent of the issue (i.e. the number of people affected) from its depth (i.e. how badly people are affected). Hills also highlights how the impact of Government policies can be assessed against this new proposed definition, showing the positive impact current Government policies are having on tackling fuel poverty.

Commenting on the new report, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, said: “Fuel poverty is a serious national problem and this Government remains committed to doing all it can to tackle it and make sure that the help available reaches those who need it most.

“We were right to commission this independent review because we want to make our policies as effective as possible, and improving fuel poverty measurement is a key part of this. I am grateful to Professor Hills and his team for the quality of their work, we will now study the report in detail ahead of consulting on an alternative definition for fuel poverty in the summer.”

To date Government has attempted to solve the issue of fuel poverty through a range of schemes including assistance with heating and insulation through the Warm Front policy, Carbon Emissions Reduction Target and the Warm Home Discount scheme.

As we move further into 2012, several new policies are expected to increase the support for low income and vulnerable households, including the upcoming Green Deal Energy Company Obligation which has been designed to provide “Affordable Warmth”.

The full report can be read here.