The Committee on Fuel Poverty has published its first report – spelling out what needs to be done to help England's 2.38 million households struggling to pay their energy bills.
The government advisory group has laid out some stark points. Possibly the most significant among them is its estimate that the shortfall in funding if we're to hit the 2030 target of getting as many homes as possible up to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C is around the £20 billion mark.
It's a statement, if it were needed, that the current Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme falls short as an instrument to achieve this big change. The hard truth is that if we want to tackle fuel poverty properly and get to the 2030 target, we need to ramp up activity and spend more.
Funding for fuel poverty has to reach the fuel poor. This may seem an obvious thing to point out, but without proper targeting, schemes can fail to achieve this most fundamental factor in success.
Data, right down to home level, is going to be pivotal to getting the most out of what comes next – so it is a positive that the report goes to some length about the importance of targeting, both in existing schemes, and what, potentially, might be to come.
But nearly 40 mentions of targeting in a report is not action on the ground, so it's also pleasing that the authors point out that there are encouraging steps to this end already under way within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
There are some other positives to take from the report. The authors reference energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority – something that Energy Saving Trust is looking to be officially recognised.
The health and wellbeing impact of improving leaky homes is potentially enormous; coupled with significant economic benefits; it's a truly compelling package.
With double the incidence of fuel poverty (20 per cent) in the private rented sector compared to the percentage across all sectors, and some of the least energy efficient housing to be found there, it's clear that this should be another priority area.
So while it is pleasing to see the report call for minimum standards in private rented accommodation, this does need to be introduced in a form that's undiluted, with some capacity to measure and enforce its effectiveness.
A figure of £5,000 has been mooted as a possible cap to the amount landlords would have to spend to get the least energy efficient properties up to an E rating, but at present, nothing has been decided.
A section of the report is dedicated to the importance of householders living in fuel poverty being informed of the options available to them. Another positive, as good advice, combined with good targeting, is what will take fuel poverty schemes from good ideas on paper to actually improving people's lives.
Looking to Scotland might be a good idea for decision-makers when it comes to making sure the right information gets to the right people. Home Energy Scotland, a well-funded one-stop shop service for householders, is proving an exemplar model for joining advice and delivery on energy efficiency.
It's to be hoped that this report, as well as the forthcoming Bonfield Review on energy efficiency and renewables advice and consumer protection, will inform a smarter approach to fuel poverty that finally starts to stem the tide of a phenomenon that poses a serious, long-term problem in the UK.