Energy plan 'threatens rural areas'

RURAL areas face being hardest hit by the government's green energy plans, ministers have been told.

Government estimates suggest energy and climate change policies will push up electricity prices by 27% by 2020, claims Calor Gas.

This was despite assertions that green energy would bring down household bills, it said.

Calor claims the problem is exacerbated by a slowdown in rural house building and tighter building regulations under a drive towards Zero Carbon Homes by 2016.

"Calor has concerns relating to government energy and housing policies which we believe are unfairly disadvantaging rural citizens," said Paul Blacklock, the company's head of strategy.

The Prime Minister had previously stated that 'green energy must be affordable'.

But Mr Blacklock warned: "The cost of proposed energy policy, and the drive to make all new homes zero-carbon, could severely impact rural residents."

It could also potentially hamper the recovery of the housing market, and the wider economy.

Calor suggests that the government's drive to revise Building Regulations could add more than £16,000 to the cost of a new build rural home.

Many rural dwellers already face higher energy bills, according to a recent report.

The lack of mains gas supply can mean having to use more expensive fuels, and older homes in rural areas can be less energy efficient.

Rural residents are also among those most likely to suffer from fuel poverty this winter, according to government statistics.

Households in fuel poverty are defined as those that spend more than 10% of their income on heating the home.

Estimated fuel poverty levels for local authority areas were published by the Department for Energy and Climate Change last November.

Earlier this year, one of England's most rural local authorities called on the government to tackle fuel poverty.

Eddie Martin, leader of Cumbria County Council, said ministers should consider abolishing VAT on energy bills.

He made the comments after new figures revealed that more than a quarter of the county's households were living in fuel poverty.

Mr Martin said children growing up in poverty in Cumbria were more likely to suffer poor health.

They were also likely to do less well in school and become the next generation of adults at risk of unemployment and long-term poverty.


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