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Quantifying and Classifying Rural Fuel Poverty

Date: 2008


The Warm Front programme was introduced in 2000 as the central plank in the UK Government’s policy to tackle fuel poverty through practical measures to increase energy efficiency in domestic housing. However, rural and urban homes may present different challenges for such schemes owing to dissimilarities in property type, household demographics and access to energy supplies. Earlier research suggested rural households in income poverty were more likely to be in fuel poverty than their urban counterparts (Palmer et al., 2008) and spent more on every type of fuel (Commission for Rural Communities, 2005), yet their take-up of Warm Front was much lower. A detailed investigation would enable more informed policy.

Key research Question

The study aimed to identify a viable methodology for calculating and classifying rural fuel poverty and, by using such an approach, to map the prevalence of fuel poverty, its characteristics and any dissimilarities from urban fuel poverty as a route to developing an enhanced understanding of the issues.

Summary of activity

Statistical analysis of a number of small-area datasets, including levels of gas connectivity and the distribution of Warm Front Grants, geographically mapped onto Census Output Areas using GIS.



  • Certain risk factors for fuel poverty were more prevalent in rural than in urban areas, including solid wall properties and much lower levels of gas connectivity.
  • Different definitions of fuel poverty (based on alternative measures of income) hampered a clearer comparison of rural and urban areas.
  • While Warm Front Grants were reaching greater numbers of rural households, the data suggested that they were still not reaching the most isolated settlements. The eligibility criteria, which utilise benefit status rather than actual fuel poverty status, may prevent access for some who need support.


  • In order to maximise the reach of Warm Front Grants, DEFRA and the DWP should agree to a number of additional measures. These should include extra funding to take account of the increased logistics, investment in community outreach to promote the uptake of benefits and Warm Front, widening the eligibility criteria for accessing the scheme and allowing monies to cover installations suitable for rural hard-to-treat homes (e.g. solid wall insulation, ground and air source heat pumps and communal biomass combined heat and power/district heating).
  • Both the ‘equivalised’ and the ‘after housing costs’ income definitions of fuel poverty need to be agreed across government, which would enable better comparison and evaluation.

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