The opulent side of fuel poverty (tip 1: dimmer for chandeliers)

By Dan O’Sullivan

Nobody has ever said that maintaining four Palaces and a castle would be cheap, and the recent rise in energy costs means that even the Royals are starting to feel the pinch when it comes to heating their homes. The hikes in the cost of energy have left Her Majesty facing the prospect of joining the roughly five million British households that are below the fuel poverty line, and with the Royal income currently frozen by the government, only one more round of rises could be enough to fence the Queen in with some of her struggling subjects.

A British family is deemed to be in a situation of fuel poverty when the cost of heating their home rises above 10% of their annual income. If the Queen uses as much energy in the coming year as she did in the last, the cost would rise to 8.2% of her yearly allowance – dangerously close to the fuel poverty threshold defined by the British government. Indeed, should the growth in prices we saw this year be repeated next, Her Majesty will be well and truly skint – in fuel terms, at least.

So, just how much is it going to cost the British Head of State to stay toasty when the inevitable chill begins to bite in the coming weeks? Going at last year’s levels of consumption, the Queen is expected to throw a whacking great £2.6 million at her energy bills this time round – tough times and sacrifice are also ahead in the royal corridors, then…

With the threat of a bill that might need to be printed across two sheets of paper, perhaps our monarch will be seen logging onto the Energy Saving Trust site for some tips on how to shore up the draughts; maybe we’re not too far from seeing the Buckingham Palace roof kitted out with solar panels bearing the Windsor coat of arms. However, with the value of the Crown’s holdings stretching into the hundreds of millions, this could be further off than we’d hope.

Despite the above, there is a genuine point to make here. If energy prices are enough to push the British monarch to the brink of fuel poverty – in relative terms, anyway – surely something is wrong. Fuel poverty is a serious issue, with a reported 2,700 people dying each year due to people being unable to afford the cost of adequately heating their home; hardly a comforting thought given the trend of pricing.

The government are obliged to effectively eradicate fuel poverty as it’s currently defined by 2016. The definition itself is being worked on to be more about adequate heating of homes (and some would say maybe it should be, if the Queen falls under current description…). But definitions aside, the over five million in the UK currently in fuel poverty are unlikely to be sending emergency food parcels to Her Madge in her apparent plight. What’s for certain is that future schemes and energy supplier obligations need to have those most in need at their heart.