The role of data in addressing fuel poverty

The role of data in addressing fuel poverty

Frontier Economics and Mime worked with the Open Data Institute (ODI) to consider the role of data in addressing fuel poverty.

The cost of living has been increasing in England since early 2021. In September 2022, inflation was 10.1%, close to a 40- year high, and rising energy prices are a major direct and indirect contributor to this. Fuel poverty occurs when a household is unable to afford to heat their home to an adequate temperature. Fuel poverty causes considerable financial hardship and negative health impacts.

This report concerns itself with data infrastructure (data assets supported by people, processes, and technology) and data practices in the context of fuel poverty in England. The importance of using data to tackle fuel poverty has been highlighted previously and merits further in-depth exploration considering the recent energy price rises.

The analysis in this report brings together a unique combination of existing datasets to provide a data-informed picture of fuel poverty and at-risk groups. On average, 13% of English households were classed as fuel poor using data collected in 2020. This equates to 3.16 million households. The recent rises in energy prices mean that many more households will struggle to pay for fuel this winter.

To adequately account for the complexity and nuances associated with fuel poverty issues, the data infrastructure for fuel poverty needs to improve.

  • The government’s definition of fuel poverty and the resulting number of households identified as fuel poor within national statistics is relatively narrow.
  • Current official indicators are already out -of -date and do not reflect the reality of a fast-evolving situation
  • Official fuel poverty statistics are currently solely based on a single survey which does not have sufficient statistical power to enable in-depth granular exploration of specific household types.
  • Multiple government support schemes exist to combat fuel poverty. However, data on the extent to which these schemes successfully target those most in need is only published on a scheme-by-scheme basis (if at all).

To begin addressing some of the issues above we created an updated fuel poverty risk index that begins to overcome them and fills existing gaps. This index draws on 16 distinct data sets to create the most accurate picture of fuel poverty across England today. This index allows us to compares fuel poverty risk to the level of support provided to that locality. Overall, we observe a statistically significant positive correlation between level of support provided and overall risk of fuel poverty within each local authority. However, we can also see that there is significant room for improvement. In particular, multiple local authorities in both urban and rural areas appear to not be receiving an appropriate allocation of government support.

To find out more about the research you can download the full report here.

For further information please contact or call +44 (0) 20 7031 7000.