Lynne Sharp of utility metering specialist Orsis (UK) Ltd on why simple solution and energy education are key to tackling fuel povertyIf the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group’s assumptions are correct, more than nine million households will be living in fuel poverty by 2016.

There is no doubt that rising fuel prices, and a country in the grip of recession, leads to more people struggling to pay their energy bills. Vulnerable customers are more likely to live in energy inefficient homes, either owned or rented, and may well be tied into expensive tariffs, lacking the support and understanding to choose the tariff or supplier that best meets their needs.

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The Government’s flagship energy initiatives – smart meters and the Green Deal – are fundamentally good ideas with the potential to benefit a great many people. Unfortunately there’s a fault in the delivery with struggling consumers expected to foot the bill for two initiatives whose benefits may not be realised.

Smart metering can offer vulnerable customers real benefits – an accurate meter reading with real time information about fuel use allows people to see what they’re using and manage their budget. However, the smart meter rollout as planned by the government will add to the cost of consumers’ energy bills.

The Green Deal scheme should help to improve the quality of housing stock through the installation of draught proofing, wall and loft insulation, energy efficient boilers and double glazing. As with the smart meter proposal, consumers will be paying for these through their energy bills. They need more support and help to understand whether the cost of their Green Deal improvements will bring them long term savings in fuel costs.

If we are committed to tackling fuel poverty then we need to provide consumers with sound advice, simple solutions and educate them about energy efficiency.

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