Ask RAY: Fuel poverty
Fuel poverty has been defined as where a household needs to spend more than 10% of its income to keep the home heated to 21°C in the living room and 18°C in the rest of the house. It is calculated using the income of households, the cost of fuel they need for heating, and the ability of their home to retain heat. Many rural houses are old, detached and larger than urban houses and while over 60% of homes in urban areas and rural towns are cavity walled and on mains gas, this is true of only 32% in villages and 21% in hamlets where heating oil and electricity is more commonly used for heating.
With the price of oil and the cost of energy production increasing, fuel poverty has the potential to have a far greater impact on rural communities. The reliance on private transport and decreasing viability of rural transport and services also means that those least able to afford to travel are facing increased isolation.
An increasing number of rural communities are discovering that investing in local renewable energy generation can bring big benefits to their community. Benefits range from providing a source of ongoing income, reducing energy bills, providing a focus for community regeneration and helping to reduce carbon emissions.The UK target is to increase renewable energy generation to 15% by 2020 and is equivalent to a seven-fold increase on 2008 levels. This presents opportunities and challenges for rural communities who are becoming increasingly aware of the options for renewable energy.
A new guide, titled "Get Generating" produced by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) in partnership with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is now available to assist groups in considering their option when thinking about developing a renewable energy scheme and addressing the impacts of climate change. Developing innovative approaches to both change individual behaviour and promote sustainable lifestyles through collective action is what ACRE and the Rural Community Action Network is promoting nationwide.
RAY has supported a number of rural communities in Yorkshire who have set up oil cooperatives, introduced community-based transport schemes to reduce reliance on the car and ensured local community-owned facilities adopt energy efficient practices in both their design and their use.
Incentives such as the Feed in tariffs and the forthcoming Green Deal, will help improve household energy efficiency and the renewable heat incentive payments for generating heat from renewable sources will also provide opportunities for rural areas.
Further information about current and future government policy on fuel poverty and its relationship to health, energy efficiency measures and energy company obligations is also available from National Energy Action at www.nea.org.uk.
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