OFTEC says ‘act now on fuel poverty’ as ‘excess’ winter deaths hit 15 year high

OFTEC says ‘act now on fuel poverty’ as ‘excess’ winter deaths hit 15 year high

Monday, October 17, 2016 By OFTEC

Government figures just released show the number of excess deaths last winter (2014/15) reached 43,900, up 151% on the previous year, representing the highest annual increase since records began. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) data compares the number of deaths in December to March with those during the preceding four months (August to November).

The majority of excess deaths last winter (36,300) occurred among people aged 75 and over and although the large increase has been partly attributed to an ineffective flu vaccine, another important factor was that many vulnerable people couldn’t afford to adequately heat their homes.

One of the main problems is that UK housing stock is amongst the least energy efficient in Europe, with poor insulation and old, inefficient heating which leads to higher fuel bills. Many older, rural properties have the worst Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of F and G and OFTEC says more needs to be done to urgently improve the energy efficiency of these properties.

Jeremy Hawksley, director general at OFTEC, said: “In this day and age it is totally unacceptable that we are still seeing such a large number of people dying from the cold. Even though oil prices are continuing to fall and have now dropped to a six year low, many rural households are still likely to be in fuel poverty due to poor insulation levels and the many older, less efficient boilers still in use.

“OFTEC continues to urge government to re-think the UK’s current heating strategy which leaves too many people out in the cold, with off grid consumers getting a particularly poor deal.”

With Green Deal now scrapped, the main energy saving scheme currently open to rural, off grid households is the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to encourage the take up of 100% renewable heating technologies. However, with the impracticality and high upfront costs of installing these renewable heating systems (between (£9,000 and £17,000), the scheme is clearly not targeted at the millions of fuel poor who most urgently need help. 

Jeremy Hawksley continues: “The UK desperately needs a combined energy efficiency and carbon reduction policy that works. Instead of incentivising 100% renewable solutions which aren’t practical or affordable for most, government should instead focus on pushing solutions that are simple, affordable to install, impose limited disruption on the home owner and offer competitive running costs.

“A universal boiler scrappage scheme to encourage consumers to switch to high efficiency, modern condensing boilers could help thousands of households practically and realistically to cut their fuel bills – as well as reduce CO2 emissions. While oil prices are low it’s the perfect time to use the money saved in fuel costs to invest in a modern boiler to secure long term savings. We would also like to see more support to better insulate rural homes to stop them ‘leaking’ heat.

“Fuel poverty is an urgent issue. Government needs to act now to ease the pressure on the millions of fuel poor and help prevent thousands more pointless deaths from the cold.”

OFTEC has also republished a booklet, in partnership with Age UK, for older people, who are most at risk, to help them keep warm and well during the winter. Visit the Oilsave website to download a PDF of ‘Keeping Warm This Winter’. Additionally, the Oilsave website provides useful guidance for consumers on becoming more energy efficient.


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