A household in fuel poverty is typically defined as one that spends 10% of household income on energy services, particularly warmth (Boardman, 1991). Fuel poverty is influenced by three main factors.
Firstly, household income has a particularly significant impact on fuel poverty and low-income households are at significant risk of experiencing fuel poverty.
Secondly, the energy efficiency of the home contributes to the extent of fuel poverty in a home. Buildings with poor loft insulation, inefficient boilers and single glazing are hard to heat and require a significant amount of money to attain a comfortable temperature. While inefficient buildings typically are at risk of fuel poverty, they also contribute to carbon emissions (Jenkins, 2010).
The third contributor to fuel poverty is the cost of domestic energy services. Northern Ireland has been traditionally restricted to home heating oil (HHO) and has had limited access to natural gas. In 2008, 80% of homes in Northern Ireland used oil-fire central heating compared to 8% in Scotland.
These causes of fuel poverty have led to Northern Ireland experiencing some of the highest rates of fuel poverty within the UK.