Letter: High price of fuel poverty

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your correspondents (4 July) are right to highlight the apparent contradiction in reducing energy prices in the Budget whilst also aiming at a 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. Few doubt that fossil- based energy prices will rise as they increasingly reflect the cost of the damage caused by this form of fuel. If price is to be the carbon abatement mechanism, then according to some economists it will need a tax rising to $100 a barrel oil equivalent by 2010 to dampen demand for fossil energy to the level recommended by the UN IPCC Scientific Committee.

Meanwhile the Government is faced with the problem of the fuel-poor, mostly occupying the 12 million sub-standard energy-guzzling houses in England and Wales. In the short term the Chancellor had no alternative but to reduce VAT on domestic fuel to alleviate fuel poverty. However, the money that is now being allocated to housing should be targeted at refurbishing poor-quality homes to an energy efficiency standard of SAP 60 (government Standard Assessment Procedure). To put this into perspective, new homes have to achieve around SAP 75 whist most of the sub-standard homes will be SAP 10-20. Houses that cannot be raised to this standard should be replaced with new-build.

In due course the EU will impose a carbon tax which will not only dampen demand for fossil-based energy, but also improve the cost-effectiveness of energy-efficient buildings and renewable energy. The first call on the proceeds of the tax should be to ensure that fuel poverty is consigned to history.


Chairman, Royal Institute of British Architects Environment and Planning Committee