Conventional approaches to ‘protecting’ the fuel poor have focused on the needs of the energy system, not those of the consumer, with interventions rooted in regulation and policy, rarely tapping into innovation.
Most interventions to aid vulnerable energy consumers come from government regulation and policy. Yet innovation can provide important and additional options to better understand what people need and want from energy in their homes, and how the difficulties that low income households face, are exaggerated by the high cost of adequate energy in their homes.
Fair Futures explores the opportunities for innovation to address fuel poverty, and better understand the issues faced by vulnerable energy consumer groups in the UK.
Poised between government, industry and academia, the Fair Futures team are uniquely placed and motivated to facilitate conversations as an impartial, independent convener with knowledge of the energy sector and vulnerable energy consumers.
Fair Futures focuses on how innovation can be used to better understand the issues faced by vulnerable energy consumers and to identify the areas where commercial, governmental, community and household needs and motivations could be aligned to provide more effective policies, products and services.
To understand how to design and deliver services to consumers facing difficulties with low household incomes and the high cost of adequate energy in their homes, Fair Futures is trying to better understand what people in vulnerable circumstances need and want from energy in their home. The best way to demonstrate that new innovations will work for vulnerable households is to design it with them.
There is a risk that some consumers in vulnerable situations – with health conditions, on low incomes, without access to the internet, or who speak English as a second language for instance – may not benefit or could even be harmed as decarbonisations and digitalisation happens. For example, 9% of people have never used the internet, 13% of people don’t have access to the internet and 20% don’t have broadband, so despite the many benefits of smart heating, we need to ensure emerging digital systems are not a barrier to accessing energy.
With greater insight of vulnerable customers’ needs and challenges, organisations will be able to explore the opportunities for innovation that enable people to access the energy they want and develop new products and services.
This could decrease the risk of undertaking in innovation, for both businesses and consumers, and could be applied to developing new propositions, improving customer handling procedures and meeting new policy obligations and changes.
Contact us if you want to be involved in ensuring the future energy system works for everyone through new policies, products, services and strategies.