6m UK homes may be unable to pay energy bills after price hike


Campaigners fear fuel poverty could hit highest level since records began unless government acts

The number of UK households living in fuel poverty could climb to the highest level on record by this spring unless the government moves to soften the blow of a looming record high energy bill hike, according to a fuel poverty charity.

Around 4 million homes in the UK were already classed as fuel poor before a surge in global energy market prices triggered one of the steepest ever energy bill hikes in October, but campaigners are braced for a record increase in the numbers unable to pay their energy bills following another hike this spring.

The charity National Energy Action warned that the double blow to household bills could cause at least 2 million more homes to slip into fuel poverty compared with the start of 2021, taking the total to 6 million households. This would be the highest level of fuel poverty across the UK since records began in 1996.

The looming energy price hike has not yet been finalised by the regulator but Adam Scorer, chief executive of National Energy Action, told the Observer that the number of households in fuel poverty would “skyrocket” in April. This is expected to deepen the UK’s national energy crisis and compound the “year of the squeeze”, predicted by the Resolution Foundation last week, which threatens to trigger a “cost of living catastrophe” for hard-pressed families.

Households are already paying record prices to put petrol in their cars, and can expect the cost of consumer goods to rocket as fuel prices and supply-chain disruptions take their toll on major companies.

“Those on lowest incomes and in less-efficient homes will not just face financial hardship but intolerable living conditions, ill health and, for too many, a shortened life,” Scorer said. “This is not just conjecture. It will happen and we’ve had enough time to see it coming and act.”

Energy market prices climbed steadily over 2021 before leaping to record highs in October and fresh record highs in December. The market rally has fuelled one of the steepest energy price hikes in the history of the UK’s liberalised energy market.