Blog: Fuel Poverty Statistics for 2024

News | Posted on Thursday 22 February 2024

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw offers a critique of the latest Fuel Poverty Statistics for 2024. These figures are published annually by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero

The latest Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics for 2024[1] from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero are in some ways admirable. They are detailed and well presented. But they are flawed. Of course, any measure of fuel poverty or in fact poverty are flawed. But there is something really worrying about this official measure of fuel poverty that shows it declining at a time that fuel costs and poverty have been rising.

The method they use is based on the recommendations of the late, and much admired, Professor John Hills reviews[2].  He sensibly argued that we needed to take account of not just income and fuel costs but the thermal quality of the dwelling. That is now what the DESNZ measure seeks to do using the English Housing Survey.

The latest report claims that fuel poverty fell slightly in 2024 but the fuel poverty gap increased. This contrasts rather sharply with their version of the old indicator of the percentage of households spending more than 10% of their income on fuel which increased 9 percentage points over the same period from 27.4% in 2022 to 36.4% in 2023.

There are a number of reasons for this difference:

  • In their measure no household however poor can be in fuel poverty if the thermal quality of their dwelling is assessed as C or above. This is despite the fact that as they show C and above dwellings are more likely to be social housing and occupied by lower income households.
  • They also assess the fuel costs not on actual expenditure (as here[3]) but a model based on the household and dwelling characteristics in order to achieve a given standard – all rather obscure, impossible to check and replicate.
  • There are other problems to do with assessing the Warm Homes Discount.[4]
  • To give them credit they do also publish a version of the original fuel poverty measure – households spending more than 10% of their net income after housing costs on fuel. But again, their measure is not based on actual expenditure but assumed expenditure, given the thermal nature of the dwelling. Their justification for not relying on actual expenditure is that it would exclude those limiting their consumption and living in cold conditions.

We probably need to try to sustain both methods in the future.