A household is said to be in fuel poverty when its members cannot afford to keep adequately warm at reasonable cost, given their income. The term is mainly used in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, although discussions on fuel poverty are increasing across Europe, and the concept also applies everywhere in the world where poverty may be present.
In the UK fuel poverty is defined by the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act as: “a person is to be regarded as living “in fuel poverty” if he is a member of a household living on a lower income in a home which cannot be kept warm at reasonable cost”.  Statistically this used to be defined when a household would need to spend more than 10% of its income to maintain an adequate heating regime (definitions of "income" and "adequate heating regime" vary between UK Government and Devolved Administrations.) A new more complex definition of fuel poverty is now used in the UK, based on the Hills review.  This gave the following definition; fuel poverty is now defined as when a household’s required fuel costs are above the median level; and if they were to spend what is required, then the household would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line. Additionally, a Fuel Poverty Indicator has been created, which shows how far into fuel poverty households are, not simply if they are in poverty or not. 
In Eastern Europe (transition economies) the term energy poverty is sometimes used instead. However this use of the term (which is about a lack of access to energy services due to economic poverty) can be confused with indicating a lack of any access to energy infrastructure, as has been used by the World Economic Forum when establishing its Energy Poverty Action (EPA) initiative in 2005 to address energy poverty in the developing world by implementing electrification schemes (grid-extension and off-grid).
Causes of fuel poverty
Fuel poverty is caused by a convergence of four factors:
- low income, which is often linked to absolute poverty
- high fuel prices, including the use of relatively expensive fuel sources (such as electricity in the UK, aggravated by higher tariffs for low-volume energy users)
- poor energy efficiency of a home, e.g. through low levels of insulation and old or inefficient heating systems
- under-occupancy: according to UK government statistics, on average those in the most extreme fuel poverty live in larger than average homes
- old age.
The sharp rise in fuel prices from 2006-8 has led to an estimated doubling of the numbers in fuel poverty in countries where it is a major problem.
In early 2008 it was estimated by Energywatch that there were around 4.4 million households in fuel poverty in the UK, with just over 3 million in England alone: this was more than double the number in 2003.
- National Energy Action (NEA)
- EU Fuel Poverty Network http://www.fuelpoverty.eu
- UK Government (2000). Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act (Report). UK National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec). http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/31/contents. Retrieved 28/10/2013.
- Scottish Government. "Summary UK Fuel Poverty". Retrieved 2011-09-29.
- [|Professor John Hills] (March 2012). Getting the measure of fuel poverty - Final Report of the Fuel Poverty Review (Report) (1st ed.). Department of Energy and Climate Change. http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cr/CASEreport72.pdf. Retrieved 28/10/2013.
- [|Narec Distributed Energy] (October 2013). ERDF Social Housing Energy Management Project - Final Project Report (Report) (1st ed.). UK National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec). p. 10. http://www.narecde.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ERDF-Social-Housing-Energy-Management-Narec.pdf. Retrieved 28/10/2013.
- Buzar, S. Energy Poverty in Eastern Europe: Hidden Geographies of Deprivation. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007.
- "Energy Poverty Action "Delivering business expertise and best practices to reducing energy poverty"". Retrieved 2008-05-09.
- Holtzclaw, B (April/June 2004). "Shivering in Acutely Ill Vulnerable Populations". AACN Clinical Issues: Advanced Practice in Acute and Critical Care 15 (2): 267–279
- Tim Webb (The Observer) (2008-01-20). "Fury as fuel poverty soars close to a 10-year record". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-05-09.
- 6.3 million or almost a quarter of all households are now in fuel poverty uSwitch, published 2011-07-06, accessed 2011-07-11
- Bills 'cost 27% of household income' Vanquis Money Management News, 16 November 2011