Nearly 140,000 families a year could be lifted out of fuel poverty simply by targeting support to connect fuel poor homes to the gas grid, according to the Energy & Utilities Alliance (EUA).

In its latest report, “Fuel Poverty – A Connected Solution” published on 17 January, EUA used logical regression techniques to identify that connection to the gas grid is key to tackling the problem.

This solution requires alignment of existing policies, with no additional government expenditure, and is estimated to save hard-pressed families over £900 a year on their energy bills.

The plans involve directing Energy Company Obligation money levied on the energy suppliers, to install first-time central heating systems into fuel poor homes that currently have no gas supply. The Gas Distribution Networks (GDNs) will then connect supply, from the grid, which in many cases is within a few metres of the home.

Current regulations do not permit the GDNs to connect homes to the gas grid unless a heating system is to be installed, and fuel poverty prevents this happening. According to figures from the Energy Savings Trust, gas costs 5p per kWh compared to electricity at 13p per kWh.

Chief executive of the EUA, and former international development minister, Mike Foster said: “Fuel poverty is a real, serious and growing problem in the UK. In particular families with children, who struggle to get by, are the ones most at risk. Simply helping them to switch from electric heating to gas central heating will lift them out of fuel poverty by cutting bills by over £900 a year.

“With so many homes close to the underground gas network, all that is required is an alignment of government policy. No new money is needed. In fact, the government could help simplify the process of identifying the fuel poor by sharing data they hold. The gas networks want to do more, but current regulations stop them. Simple changes, better targeted support and the determination of government to help, could change the lives of hundreds of thousands of families who today juggle between heating and eating.”

The report provides an insight into the impact such a policy would have on three towns – Blackpool, Bristol and Brighton. To read the full report, visit the EUA website.