Out of the Cold: An Agenda for Warm Homes

Publication Details

ResPublica, in partnership with Age UK, Calor Gas, Orbit Group and WM Housing, sets out a new radical vision in response to the cold homes crisis

We are facing a cold homes crisis. One in every ten households in England are in fuel poverty; 2.28 million homes are struggling to keep warm. Many of those on low incomes are choosing eating over heating their homes and most are paying up to £1000 more on their annual energy bills than the average household. We are also witnessing a disturbingly high number of winter deaths that are directly connected with poor environments at home.

The current policy framework has not, and is not, addressing some crucial underlying problems. Previous and existing policy measures, and those proposed over the next two years under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), are not enough to ensure warm homes for all living in the UK.

We have argued elsewhere that public services can better respond to people’s needs when they are local, bespoke and holistic. This argument extends to services that deliver to those suffering from cold and uncomfortable homes. We therefore call for a more bespoke way of targeting those in need, a more devolved means of delivering such services and more creative methods to leverage the required funds.

The policy recommendations set out in this paper outline a new model to be implemented after the current ECO programme expires in 2017.

Caroline Julian, Head of Policy Programmes at ResPublica, said:

A shocking number of people suffer and die every year due to living in cold and uncomfortable homes. We need to radically rethink how we can better target, deliver and fund energy efficiency measures for vulnerable people and those on low incomes. Our report sets out this thinking, and outlines clear recommendations for how Government can act now.

Amber Rudd MP, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, said:

Over 1 million homes have now had energy efficiency measures installed under this government. However, I am determined to go even further to help households keep warmer for less and I look forward to closely reading the policy recommendations set out in ResPublica’s new report.

Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said:

We urgently need to end the scandal of cold homes. Labour has set out ambitious plans to deliver long-term, permanent savings on energy bills and warmer homes for millions of people. ResPublica’s paper builds on what we have outlined and sets out some really interesting ideas that I will take into serious consideration.

Tim Yeo MP, Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said:

ResPublica’s Agenda for Warm Homes succinctly sets out the current issues facing ECO and argues for the introduction of a more radical, localised approach as well as the ramping up of incentives and targets. It is a bold and ambitious document and is exactly what’s needed in this policy space in order to ensure we capitalise fully on the massive potential for energy efficiency improvements in our homes.

Lord Teverson, Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Energy and Climate Change in the House of Lords, said:

ResPublica’s Agenda for Warm Homes offers ambitious yet practical solutions to tackle fuel poverty. The recommendations set out in this paper should receive broad support from across the political spectrum. It should be required reading for all policymakers.

Mervyn Kohler, Age UK, said:

Fixing energy efficiency shortcomings for poor people in cold homes in England is funded by an obligation on energy companies. This report shows that the scheme fails to reach many in fuel poverty, lacks ambition and scale, and is unstable and fitfully implemented: it goes on to recommend fundamental and structural reforms. Beyond that, it points too to privately rented homes, where there are disproportionately more households in fuel poverty than any other sector. Given that cold homes cause illnesses and deaths, it is simply scandalous that the current policies are so weak.

Stephen Rennie, Managing Director, Calor Gas Ltd, said: 

Calor has serious long held concerns regarding access to, and the delivery of, properly targeted help and support for fuel poor householders who live off the gas grid and who want to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. In spite of recent scheme changes, it is evident that Government policy continues to disadvantage rural off gas grid householders. Action is needed now to amend energy policy to ensure that the rural fuel poor not only contribute to the cost of delivering energy policy, but actually start to see some benefits.

Boris Worrall, an Executive Director at Orbit, said: 

Our customers tell us paying fuel bills is one of the biggest problems they face. There are no easy solutions but this package of recommendations  add up to a potential game changer in how we tackle this huge national challenge.

Ian Hill, Director of Communications and Business Excellence at WM Housing, said:

It is clear the challenges of tackling fuel poverty and reducing the impact of climate change remain huge. This paper sets out some innovative and thought-provoking ideas to reshape the approach to delivery using incentives, penalties and clearer lines of accountability than exist at present. None of these will, of course, be a panacea. All, though, offer new ideas and thinking that deserve active consideration.

Rachel Fisher, Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation, said:

With the second worst energy performance for existing homes in Europe (behind only the rapidly improving Estonia) ending the housing crisis isn’t just about building new homes, but also about making the ones we have fit for the twenty-first century. For landlords and tenants this is a critical issue as people increasingly have to choose between paying to heat their homes, and paying their rent. ResPublica’s new report adds thoughtful and robust views to this debate and should be considered by the next government as they draw up their plan to end the housing crisis within a generation.

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  • Catherine Duggan

    Catherine is an Independent Senior Energy Consultant and recognised leader on low carbon energy solutions with over 15 years’ experience working as an energy strategist, programme deliverer and fundraiser. Recently, Catherine was the Head of the North for the Energy...

    Catherine Duggan
  • Caroline Julian


    Caroline was Director of Policy and Strategy at ResPublica from 2010 through to 2016, and continues to support the think tank as a member of its Advisory Board. During her time at ResPublica, she played a pivotal role in determining...

    Caroline Julian
  • Richard Sagar

    Senior Policy and Projects Officer

    Richard joined ResPublica in June 2014, having previously worked for environmental NGOs and trade associations. Prior to that he was a postgraduate in philosophy, with a particular interest in the philosophy of cognitive science, epistemology and the philosophy of religion....

    Richard Sagar

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