As energy costs rise and the recession bites, more and more families in the UK are falling into ‘fuel poverty’: from a low of 1.2million households in 2004, we’re now up to 5 MILLION UK households in ‘fuel poverty’ – which means, paying over 10% of their income to heat and power their homes.
New technologies now exist which can help us to make a smooth transition to low-carbon energy sources, such as solar or wind power. As the cost of oil keeps rising steadily, and more people start using these new clean energy sources, the costs will be comparable before long, with the new clean energy sources becoming cheaper than ‘old and dirty’ oil, coal and gas.
The UK has schemes to help people out of ‘fuel poverty’. These include winter payments for heating bills, grants for insulating properties and the ‘Feed-in Tariff’ scheme which encourages home owners to install solar panels and sell clean electricity back to the grid at an agreed price.
So far so good – if you own your home. If it has cavity walls and a loft you can insulate, and a South-facing roof. But what about everybody else? What about home-owners with the wrong type of home? More importantly, what about leaseholders in shared blocks, and what about tenants?
Don’t we ALL have a Right to Renewables?
Don’t we want clean power to ALL the people, not just the lucky owners of detached houses?
As ‘old’ fuels get more and more expensive, why should tenants and leaseholders be stuck with them, instead of having the chance to take part in the new clean fuel economy? Why can’t a leaseholder on a council estate invest in a solar panel installation on the communal roof – on their own, or by rallying a group of neighbours to invest together? That would allow the flourishing of exactly the kind of distributed, micro-generation, clean power network the UK needs, and other countries have already invested in.
The UK can’t meet its low-carbon targets without including the existing, hard-to-retrofit housing stock in its plans – we only replace at most 5% new housing each year, even less in these recession years. And the UK can’t meet its low-carbon targets without including tenants and leaseholders.
Just as important as the targets, is the right of everyone – rich or poor, homeowner or tenant, in leafy suburb or inner-city estate – to have access to cheap, clean power.