More evidence of the increasing divide between the rich and poor in the United Kingdom came yesterday figures released yesterday by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The average household spending on domestic energy has dropped from around 5% in the early 1980s to a little under 4% in 2012.
But the poorest 20% of homes have not shared in the benefit: they are now spending 11% of disposable income on energy. That is nearly three times the average.
These startling figures come from the The Carbon Brief blog whites mined the data from DECC to produce Seven unexpected graphs about the UK’s energy sector. The cost of electricity, gas and other fuels has been rising since it bottomed-out in 2004. Between 2002 and 2012 energy bills increased by 55 per cent, after accounting for inflation.
It seems the lower average spend is, in part, a result of gas prices. UK consumers pay the second lowest prices in Europe, with only people in Luxembourg charged less. But because we use more gas than most countries we are seventh from the bottom in the table of expenditure on gas.
Another factor in energy spending as a proportion of household budgets over the 30 year period appears to have been improved insulation of houses, more efficient boilers and increased wealth.
It would be interesting to see more figures on oil and electricity prices. In rural areas like the one where I live there is no gas and that deprives people of those relatively lower prices for gas. A high proportion houses are also hard to insulate.
Two maps of Suffolk at Rural Fuel Poverty go a long way to explaining why we face so many problems. One shows homes connected to gas and the other the proportion of solid walled (hard to insulate) houses. In many parts of the county three-quarters of homes are solid walled and only small areas (albeit the more densely populated ones) have gas.