“Households are 50% more likely to be in fuel poverty if they aren’t connected to gas, and that is a fact that can no longer be ignored,” said Mike Foster, former government Minister and current Chief Executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA).

Mr Foster chaired the Meeting the needs of vulnerable customers seminar at Utility Week Live on 23 May, which explored best practice examples of understanding and vulnerable customers and delivery of the right service and support. The seminar also examined how energy efficiency measures can be focused on the poorest households.

Mr Foster’s matter-of-fact speech illustrated the stark reality of living in a cold, energy inefficient home.

“In 2014/15 there were in excess of 40,000 preventable deaths associated with winter. In 2015/16 there were 41% more deaths from respiratory disease in winter compared to warmer seasons. Cold living conditions are one of the triggers of such diseases. Heat and health are intrinsically linked and something must be done address this.

“Simply helping people to switch from electric heating to gas central heating can lift them out of fuel poverty by cutting bills by over £900 a year. With so many homes close to the underground gas network, connection to the gas grid and installing first-time central heating, funded by schemes such as ECO could make a real impact in lifting up to half a million homes out of fuel poverty.”

“Our gas networks are essential in providing affordable energy, securely, to the vast majority of UK homes. And with the right government direction, could change the lives of hundreds of thousands of families who today juggle between heating and eating.”