Vulnerable customers, our industry is 'doing its bit'

30th May 2017


As a relative new-be in this industry, I am always struck by how much it does to help vulnerable customers but also how little the outside world knows.

I chaired a session at the Utility Week Live event last week, focussing solely on vulnerable customers. The sizeable audience heard specific examples of great work being undertaken, as a matter of routine, to help make the lives of vulnerable customers more bearable. Despite soaring temperatures, my own contribution centred around the need to tackle fuel poverty, highlighting the 40,000 excess winter deaths the UK “puts up with” each year – and I use that phrase deliberately as I don’t believe it is acceptable to “put up with” that number of deaths, attributed to cold homes in one of the richest countries in the world.


As with all strategies to help vulnerable customers, identification is the key. Well to help with this, EUA used logistical regression analysis to identify key determinants of fuel poverty and connection to the gas grid is associated with a 64 per cent reduction in the odds of being fuel poor.


I’ve said it before but I will say it again, where properties are near to a gas pipe and direct resistive electric heating is used, fitting first-time gas central heating can save a household over £900 a year on their heating bills. Ofgem recognise this, with the Fuel Poor Network Extension Scheme aiming to get over 90,000 homes connected to the grid over an eight-year time frame. But if funding was made available, say from ECO3 to provide for first-time central heating appliances, there is a real opportunity to offer a step-change in the number of people lifted out of fuel poverty. The gas network, hidden from view, offers customers affordable and secure energy to meet their needs. Why whisper this when it should be shouted from the roof-tops?


Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO