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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


DEI and Durham Heat Hub support national day of action for warm homes

(27 November 2020)

Every winter millions of people across the UK struggle to stay warm and healthy at home. Rising energy costs, low incomes and energy inefficient homes leave them unable to afford even basic household essentials like energy, food and heating. These struggles are being made worse by Covid-19.

This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day [27 November] Durham Energy Institute is joining national charity National Energy Action (NEA) and others up and down the country to highlight this issue and encourage people to seek the help that is available to keep warm at home. 

Living in a cold home can have a range of impacts on physical and mental health and treating cold-related illness is estimated to cost the NHS in England and Wales over £2bn a year. This year the situation will be even more difficult. Covid-19 is squeezing household finances further and compelling people to spend more time in their homes. Some of the health conditions caused or worsened by cold homes, such as asthma and COPD, also place people at greater risk from the virus.

A survey of 73 organisations supporting people in fuel poverty during the first wave of Covid-19, conducted by charity National Energy Action, showed that 95% felt there was a moderate or high risk of more households cutting back on their energy use due to being forced to spend more time at home; and three quarters said they were concerned that there is a high risk of the increased building up of fuel debt this winter.

Read about DEI work to ensure warm homes for everyone and the special issue DEI Perspectives article by our partners at NEA about the impact of Covid-19 on fuel poverty ‘Snowed under: the links between fuel poverty, cold homes, and Covid-19’ at

This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day [27 November] Durham Energy Institute is joining national charity National Energy Action (NEA) and others up and down the country to highlight these issues and encourage people to seek the help that is available to keep warm at home. 

Durham Energy Institute (DEI) leads research to improve energy efficiencies in homes, decarbonise heat and work with councils and regional authorities to ensure the right services are available to support vulnerable groups out of fuel poverty. We have created the Durham Heat Hub to bring together heat research and heat decarbonisation initiatives and interests across the North East to help ensure everyone can have a warm home and to help bring clean energy projects and green jobs to the region.

Professor Jon Gluyas, Executive Director of DEI, said: “It is shocking that Fuel poverty still remains an issue in the UK today. The right to ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ is a global challenge highlighted by the Sustainable Development Goals and it is essential we recognise that we still need to achieve this goal at home and abroad. Covid has been extremely difficult for everyone, however it is clear that it is the poorest communities and households who have been disproportionately affected, and will continue to suffer the ramifications even once we have dealt with the pandemic itself. Durham Energy Institute is working with partners including National Energy Action in the North East, UK and Globally to ensure that warm housing and affordable, secure energy is available to everyone.” 

Professor Hongjian Sun, Smart Energy lead at Durham Energy Institute, is currently working with Durham County Council on a project to deliver a ‘Whole Place’ energy efficiency innovation programme to fuel poor homes in former mining villages in County Durham.

Professor Sun said “Solid wall insulation innovation is very effective for reducing household carbon emission. Our assessments and sensor measurements show an average 1.6 tonnes of CO2 reduction per household. Our research also shows that renewable energy and smart control technologies could further reduce electricity’s CO2 emission by up to 74.7% .” 

Professor Sandra Bell lead researcher of DEI’s project with Haringey Borough Council* to develop an Affordable Warmth Strategy, said ““There is no doubt that during this lock down people will be confined to unheated homes, that are likely also suffering from damp or condensation. As if that is not bad enough, I caught a news item in which a food bank manager spoke about families requesting food that does not need cooking because they cannot afford the energy costs. A short term solution is for Food Banks* to also offer Energy Vouchers as with various schemes that NEA have initiated with NPower. These kinds of initiatives are admirable, but they are stop gaps. The real solution is for government to get to grips with the problem by treating access to basic energy services as a right for all citizens. This would put electricity and gas on a par with water supply for which households are protected by law against disconnection, removing the a threat that causes many energy customers, particularly prepayment meter households to self-disconnect, as do an estimated 1.62 million people each year. National and local governments need to work with energy suppliers to provide durable schemes that consign these worst kinds of fuel poverty to the dustbin of history.”

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of NEA, commented: ‘‘Millions of people dread the cold weather, and have no idea of the support that may be available to them. While we are urging the Government to do more we also want to highlight the huge range of help that is available, from energy suppliers, local authorities, community groups and others. By working together we can get help to those who need it, and ensure more people can live in a warm and safe home this winter’.



Contact details: Evelyn Tehrani, DEI Communications and Engagement Manager


Further Information

Durham Energy Institute

Durham Energy Institute (DEI) is the hub of energy research at Durham University. We unlock research synergies between different disciplines and sectors to tackle the energy demands of the future, produce world class research for understanding energy decarbonisation issues across science and society, and deliver integrated solutions for the climate emergency.

Find out about DEI work to address fuel poverty at


Durham Heat Hub

The Heat hub brings together heat research and heat decarbonisation initiatives and interests across the North East. It aims to contribute to the decarbonisation of heat by creating collaboration between academia, local government, industry and local communities. 

Fuel Poverty Awareness Day is the national initiative to encourage action for warm homes. It is coordinated by fuel poverty charity NEA and supported by others across the UK.


*Statistics from the UK Fuel Poverty Monitor 2019-20 -

*Solid Wall Insulation Project (SWii) The SWIi project is funded by Durham County Council, Durham University and European Regional Development Fund to install new and advanced solid wall insulation systems on over 200 stone and brick built properties in towns and villages across County Durham. Durham Energy Institute is a project research partner, monitoring households to demonstrate the effectiveness of SWI on energy usage and energy bills. The project includes a local ‘Energy Friends’ network which offers advice and support services to households.

A recent output from the project: Kitty Stacpoole, Hongjian Sun, and Jing Jiang (2019) 'Smart scheduling of household appliances to decarbonise domestic energy consumption.', in Proceedings of IEEE/CIC ICCC Workshops 2019, pp. 216-221.

* Haringey Affordable Warmth Strategy Project

DEI has been working with Haringey Borough Council in London over a number of years studying the complex challenges in addressing energy affordability across the borough and the response from community organisations. This research provided the knowledge base and community links to develop a new strategy in the borough that would provide a holistic tool for the abatement of fuel poverty, while reinforcing the borough’s commitment to achieving an equitable low carbon transition