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Fuel poverty rates

Author: Oliver O'Brien, researcher and software developer at the UCL Department of Geography

This month’s map of the month looks at the most recent small-area fuel poverty rates across London, published by the UK BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) department in April 2022. It uses data from 2020 - that is, before the recent sharp increases in domestic energy costs. However, it is still useful as a general indicator to the areas of London under fuel stress and already in fuel poverty, and can provide an indicator for areas of the city likely to be most affected by fuel poverty in the coming months.

A household in England is defined as being in fuel poverty if it is in a property rated D or worse for energy efficiency, and its disposable income (that is, its remaining income after housing and energy costs are paid) would be below the poverty line (60% of the national median income). This is known as the Low Income Low Energy Efficiency (LILEE) metric. The rapid rise in costs of gas and electricity in the UK, caused largely by energy supply shortages, means that a large number of properties are likely move into fuel poverty soon.

The map below shows the proportion of households which were where in LILEE-defined fuel poverty, in 2020. The map correlates somewhat with general poverty measures such as the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), but emphasises deprived areas with large, old housing stock, while showing fewer areas containing large residential development flats - while these may house substantial otherwise deprived communities, their probable high energy efficiency ratings mean they do not meet the LILEE definition for full poverty.

In London, the areas with significant accumulations of households in fuel poverty include Newham, Waltham Forest and Barking and Dagenham. Most likely, older Victorian housing stock, often with solid, non-insulated walls, in less affluent areas, may be a major driver of fuel poverty in London. Tower Hamlets, another traditionally deprived borough, has recently seen an extensive housebuilding program which may have acted to reduce fuel poverty rates.

With the imminent announcements of significantly elevated domestic fuel rate caps, and only slow progress towards insulating older houses, the fuel poverty map may look significantly worse when 2022 data is available and analysed.

Fuel poverty rates (2020)

August 2022

About the author

The Map of the Month is produced by Oliver O'Brien. Oliver is a researcher and software developer at the UCL Department of Geography, where he investigates and implementing new ways to visualise spatial data, including mapping of open demographic and socioeconomic datasets, particularly London-focused ones, using OpenLayers. In the past he’s analysed educational geodemographics, UK census data and London travel flows, and created a number of popular visualisations such as CityDashboard, the Bike Share Map and the London Tube Stats Map. Formerly a financial software programmer, he studied for an MSc in GIS at City University London, and joined UCL in 2008, working at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and in Geography. In his leisure time he contributes to the OpenStreetMap project, which aims to create a free Wikipedia-style map of the whole world, as well as competing in and organising orienteering races. He blogs at oobrien.com and co-edits mappinglondon.co.uk.