Ofgem said that 12 million households—not people—might end up in fuel poverty

10 June 2022
What was claimed

The number of people in fuel poverty may double to 12 million.

Our verdict

This comes from a comment by the CEO of Ofgem, who actually said that 12 million households, amounting to much more than 12 million people, might be affected. The figure is an uncertain forecast.

The number of people in fuel poverty may double to 12 million.

A BBC News article claimed that Jonathan Brearley, CEO of the energy regulator Ofgem, told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee that the number of people in fuel poverty could reach 12 million following a further expected rise in the energy price cap in October.

In fact, Mr Brearley was talking about 12 million households. He told the committee: “The best number we have, if you accept all the caveats that I am not even going to run through, is around 12 million households.”

The average household size in the UK is about 2.4 people, so 12 million households in fuel poverty could amount to many more than 12 million people.

Fuel poverty is defined differently in different parts of the UK, but it broadly means having to spend a high proportion of household income on keeping the home at a reasonable temperature.

BBC News told Full Fact that it had made a mistake, and has now corrected the article.

Full Fact asked Ofgem where the figure came from. It told us that it doesn’t publish its own fuel poverty figures, and that Mr Brearley was referring to the energy company’s E.ON’s estimate that up to 40% of Britons may fall into fuel poverty later in the year.

Ofgem also cited the charity National Energy Action (NEA), which estimated that roughly 6.5 million households in the UK (21% of all households) were in fuel poverty, following the rise in the energy price cap in April 2022.

These figures are uncertain and are not the latest official estimates, which at the time of writing are only available for England in 2020.  The latest official estimates, which define fuel poverty differently in different nations, classed around 13% of households in England as fuel poor, 25% in Scotland, 12% in Wales, and 18% in Northern Ireland.

These figures also do not reflect the recent benefit changes announced by the Chancellor, which include enhanced support for higher bills that may reduce the total number of people who become fuel poor, when compared with the NEA and E.ON forecasts.  

Image courtesy of Mykola Makhlai on Unsplash

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