Fuel poverty gap


Last updated 20 February 2018 - see all updates

There is a new version of this page. View the latest version.

1. Main facts and figures

  • in almost every year between 2003 and 2015, fuel-poor White households had a bigger average fuel poverty gap than fuel-poor households from other ethnic groups
Things you need to know

The ethnicity of the ‘household reference person’ is used to determine the ethnicity of households in fuel poverty statistics.

The household reference person is the person in whose name the home is owned or rented or who is otherwise responsible for the accommodation.

For joint owners or joint tenants, the household reference person is whoever has the highest income. If the incomes are equal, it is the oldest person.

Some households contain people from different ethnic backgrounds. In these circumstances, the ethnic background of the household reference person is used to determine the ethnic background of the household.

Therefore, the statistics do not show where households contain people of more than one ethnic group.

What the data measures

This data measures the level, or depth, of fuel poverty in households over time. The measure is called the fuel poverty gap.

Fuel poverty in England is measured using the Low Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator. Under the LIHC indicator, the people in a household are considered to be in fuel poverty if:

  • the cost of fuel needed to keep their home warm, well-lit and with running appliances and hot water for everyday use is greater than the average for households across the country (the national median level)
  • subtracting this amount of fuel cost, plus all regular debt payments and expenses (including a mortgage) from a household's income results in an income below the official poverty line

The fuel poverty gap for each fuel-poor household is the amount that either the household’s income would have to increase, or its fuel bill would have to decrease, so that the household would no longer be fuel-poor.

The figures are calculated for a full year.

The average fuel poverty gap is the average for all the households in a particular group.

Three factors determine whether a household is fuel-poor:

  • household income
  • household energy requirements
  • fuel prices
The ethnic categories used in this data

Data on fuel poverty is collected as part of the English Housing Survey using the 18-category ethnicity classification from the 2011 Census.

However, for this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific or broad ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 2 broad categories:

  • White – White ethnic groups (including White British and White ethnic minorities)
  • Other – all other ethnic minorities

It also allows comparison over time between White households and all other households. This would not be possible for smaller ethnic groupings, as the detailed Census definitions for ethnicity changed between 2001 and 2011.

2. Average fuel poverty gap by ethnicity over time

Average fuel poverty gap (in £ per year) of fuel-poor households by ethnicity over time
Year White Other
£ £
2003 229 219
2004 236 228
2005 260 212
2006 334 271
2007 333 276
2008 345 304
2009 368 304
2010 370 281
2011 407 298
2012 407 324
2013 380 391
2014 377 358
2015 358 331

Download table data for ‘Average fuel poverty gap by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Average fuel poverty gap by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Fuel poverty gap Average fuel poverty gap by ethnicity over time Summary

This data shows that:

  • in almost every year between 2003 and 2015, fuel-poor White households (including White ethnic minorities) had a bigger average fuel poverty gap than fuel-poor ethnic minority households

  • in 2015, the average fuel poverty gap for fuel-poor White households was £358; for fuel-poor ethnic minority households it was £331

3. Methodology

Fuel poverty statistics use data collected from the English Housing Survey (EHS).

The EHS is a continuous national survey commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

It collects information about:

  • people’s housing circumstances
  • household income
  • the condition and energy efficiency of housing

The fuel poverty analysis uses a random sample of approximately 12,000 households from the EHS. These households had both a face-to-face interview and a physical survey carried out by a qualified surveyor.

On average, around 10% to 12% (1,400) of the surveyed households were in fuel poverty. Of these 1,400 households, less than 20% (about 200) were from an ethnic minority household (not including White ethnic minorities).


Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population.

For example, a survey which contains 25% females and 75% males will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know is around 50% male and 50% female.

Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable.

Survey weights are usually applied to make sure the survey sample has broadly the same gender, age, ethnic and geographic make up as the general population.

In the EHS, weighting makes the results more representative of the 22.6 million households in England.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Estimates based on less than 30 households have not been included in these statistics, because small numbers of households make it impossible to draw meaningful conclusions.

This is standard policy for English Housing Survey data, from which fuel poverty statistics are derived. The analysis has been done by binary classification only, to avoid the potential for identification of individuals.

More detailed data, including some potentially disclosive data, is protected by a range of disclosure controls. See the guidance on English Housing Survey: datasets for information accessing this data.


Figures are given to the nearest whole pound.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

There are known issues with the English Housing Survey sampling design and weighting methodology for 2013. These issues have adversely affected the fuel-poor household composition variable.

The change in the trend for 2013 should, therefore, be treated carefully.

4. Data sources


Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics


Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

The main purpose of the Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics data is to:

  • monitor progress against fuel poverty targets
  • track the percentage of households in fuel poverty and their fuel poverty gap

The government’s fuel poverty target for England is to ensure that as many fuel poor households as reasonably practicable achieve a minimum energy efficiency rating of Band C by 2030 (with interim targets of Band E by 2020, and Band D by 2025). Household energy efficiency ratings are banded from G (lowest) to A (highest). Energy efficiency is measured using the Fuel Poverty Energy Efficiency Rating.

5. Download the data

Average fuel poverty gap - Spreadsheet (csv) 6 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, measure, year, income band and value