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As the UK moves into the winter months and the economy continues its struggle to recover, Monarch sheds light on fuel poverty and what help is available to homeowners, landlords and tenants.

Currently at least 2.4 million homes exist in fuel poverty, affecting 10% of the UK population. Further, the recession now diminishing the UK economy may force 200,000 more homes through the cracks.

Knick of time

July of this year saw the Chancellor of the ex-chequer introduce the Green Homes Grant, a £2bn stimulus package intended to help decarbonise UK housing stock. The aim is to help improve the energy efficiency of homes with heat conservation measures like double-glazing and increased insulation.

The grant also covers heat generation options to further assist houses in offsetting their heat consumption and its relative carbon footprint. These measures include the installation of ground source heat pumps and solar-generated thermal. After establishing protections for social housing residents in the MEES regulations back in April, this latest grant will help social landlords to provide further heat security to their residents.

Poor EPC standards correlate directly to fuel poverty and the inclusion of social landlords in the eligibility criteria of the grant could not have been better timed.

UK housing has made strides of course, with 92% of fuel-poor homes rated Band E back in 2017. However, this latest government-backed contribution will still be vital to stave off the worst effects of fuel poverty this winter –  especially in conjunction with our current recession.

The cost of fuel poverty

The UK has Europe’s oldest housing stock and the effectiveness of heat conservation in homes has tripled since the 1960’s. However, ours has stagnated in that time. Sweden, by comparison, have invested heavily in energy efficiency and home insulation. As result the Scandinavian state enjoys a fraction of our fuel poverty levels despite enduring a much colder climate.

As of the last 24 hours, 2420 new cases of coronavirus have been tested and confirmed. This spike represents the highest daily increase since May 22nd and the UK has barely left August behind.

The combination of rising unemployment and energy costs and falling temperatures poses a serious risk. Public Health England has already declared that exposure to the cold categorically weakens an individual’s resistance to respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.

As such, the government’s strong stance, demonstrated by the £2bn investment, represents a lifeline to those who were previously most vulnerable to a second outbreak.

Allies against fuel poverty

Two effective ways to tackle fuel poverty are to make structures more efficient at retaining heat, mainly through robust insulation, and to learn about what consumers can do on the small scale to less energy around the home.  A link to Monarch’s Affordable Warmth guide, updated for 2020/21, can be found at the end of this article.

Monarch suggests here some ways to engage with both of these solutions and where guidance can be found for each.

While the green homes grant offers some help to social tenants and landlords, there are yet companies also prepared to further lend a hand in pursuit of improved energy efficiency. Origin Energy Services, a new partner of Monarch, is one of them.

Origin, supported by the ECO 3 fund, provides low-income households with either discounted or free solutions to fuel poverty. Origin’s primary services centre around insulation and the upgrade, repair or replacement of embedded heating systems.

Almost half of all heat lost from housing is through the walls while the roof usually accounts for another quarter. Primarily, this is a result of poor insulation. As a result, a household that invests in cavity wall insulation could make yearly savings in excess of £100.

Origin also offers a range of boiler and heating solutions for property owners intent on improving their energy efficiency at the front end.

Understanding that a comprehensive solution requires equivalent understanding, Origin also provide a no obligation assessment. Their Green Deal Approved engineers can then equip customers with the tools for greater heat efficiency well into the future.

Those interested in improving their energy efficiency profile for this winter can speak to a member of the Monarch team by calling 020 8835 3535 or sending an email.

Procure to protect

Another way that landlords can help protect their tenants from rising fuel costs is by taking a dynamic approach to energy purchasing markets.

Non-commodity costs and other hidden expenses is a major concern for future energy purchasing. The shift in demand from fossil fuels to renewables and the increase of home working has spooked suppliers. The reason is that these societal changes make consumption habits much more difficult to predict.

Responding to this future uncertainty, suppliers are now compensating by adding adjustable stipulations to so-called “fixed” contracts in order to protect their bottom line. Subsequently, if consumption habits should rise or fall, they will make up the loss by incurring extra charges on consumers.

While fixed contracts still offer limited security, flexible appears to be the way of the future and Monarch can guide housing associations through the Section 20 dispensation process in order to obtain access to this coveted flexibility. It was Darwin, after all, that said that survival depends on one’s ability to adapt to change.

Monarch has saved its housing clients over £130m since 2006 and its procurement offering is detailed here. Advice concerning the Green New Deal as well as tips to residents for saving energy is included in Monarch’s affordable warmth guide. To download our Affordable Warmth guide, enter your contact info below.

Josh Ellison

Author Josh Ellison

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