Seminar: Tackling Rural Inequalities - Decarbonisation and Social Justice

This seminar is being held on 18 October by National Energy Action (NEA), a national charity working to end fuel poverty. The venue is the Mercure Exeter Rougement Hotel, Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3SP.  Attendance at the seminar is free. The on-line booking form to attend is here.

NEA has this to say, by way of background to the seminar:

'Rural poverty in England remains a comparatively understudied issue. Research suggests that those living in rural areas typically pay a 'rural premium' of 10-20% on average living costs.

Recent research by independent think tank Bright Blue, suggests that rural poverty stems from two main factors: the higher living costs associated with rural life (for example, fuel, transport and housing costs); and the reduced opportunities for social mobility because of rural infrastructure (for example, because of lack digital connectivity and more challenging access to employment opportunities).

Analysing recent Government data, NEA estimates that rural households are paying 55% more for their energy than urban areas, in large part due to poor energy efficiency. Official statistics show that rural areas are five years behind their urban counterparts in the energy efficiency of homes. Rural areas also have a much greater proportion of EPC F and G rated households: 20% compared to around 2% for urban areas.

In addition to poorer energy efficiency standards households living in an area classified as rural are more reliant on more expensive fuels. Around 90% of urban and 86% of semi-rural households have a gas connection compared to only 40% per cent of those in rural areas. Therefore, more isolated households may have higher levels and depth of fuel poverty due a higher proportion being off the gas grid.

These worrying trends could leave many rural consumers locked into high bills for years to come as well as needless deaths this coming winter. This seminar programme aims to explore how we can tackle rural inequalities, enabling the Government to deliver the ambitions of the Clean Growth Strategy in decarbonising homes and more widely ensuring all Government departments assess the effects of their policies on rural areas to ensure that outcomes are fair and equitable.'

The draft programme for the seminar is as follows:

9.30am:Opening session
  • Welcome and introduction to aims of the seminar: Maria Wardrobe, Director of Communications & External Relations, NEA
  • Opening remarks: Paul Blacklock, Head of Strategy & Corporate Affairs, Calor (Exeter)
  • The Rural Challenge: Eamonn Ives, Researcher, Bright Blue
  • Fuel poverty in rural areas, opportunities and challenges: Peter Smith,, Director of Policy & Research, NEA and Matt Copeland, Policy Manager, NEA
  • National assistance schemes for rural customers (overview of ECO/WHDS); BEIS (Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) speaker invited.

11-11.30am:Coffee break

11.30-12.15am :Expert panel session

Panel discussion and Q and A: Overcoming challenges to reducing energy costs in rural communities: NEA, Calor,  Bright Blue, BEIS, NIBE, OFTEC, NFU, Rural Services Network and SPARSE

12.15-1.15pm: Breakout sessions and group discussion

1.30pm Lunch & close