Consumer Vulnerability Strategy: Affordability

Consumers on low incomes and those in other vulnerable situations often feel the impact of high energy bills the most. Being unable to afford an accepted level of thermal comfort may have serious health and psychological consequences. We are aware of these affordability issues and are working to help those consumers struggling to manage their bills.

We collect and publish data on affordability as part of our work to make the energy market as transparent as possible.

Chart

Source: Ofgem calculations (ONS family spending data).

Information correct as of: June 2018

This graph shows the percentage of total household expenditure spent on energy for every year since 1993.  Total household expenditure includes housing costs and energy spend refers to spend on electricity, gas and other fuels. It gives figures for households in the lowest and highest 10% of incomes, as well as an average figure for all UK households.

Energy spend as a percentage of household expenditure combines two related data points from the Office for National Statistics (ONS); Household expenditure, and spending on electricity, gas and other fuels. It is presented on the basis of income deciles with the households with the lowest incomes in the lowest decile.

Policy Areas:

  • Domestic consumers

Data Table

Energy spend as a percentage of total household expenditure (UK)

YearLowest 10%Highest 10%All households
199311.60%3.00%4.80%
199410.90%3.00%4.60%
199510.30%2.80%4.50%
19969.90%2.80%4.30%
19979.10%2.50%3.90%
19987.00%2.10%3.30%
19996.50%2.00%3.20%
20006.80%2.00%3.10%
20015.90%1.90%2.90%
20025.70%1.90%2.90%
20035.60%1.90%2.90%
20045.50%2.00%2.90%
20055.80%2.10%3.10%
20066.60%2.40%3.50%
20076.40%2.60%3.70%
20088.40%2.70%4.00%
20098.50%3.00%4.70%
20107.30%3.10%4.50%
20117.80%3.10%4.60%
20127.80%3.20%4.70%
201310.40%3.30%5.10%
20149.80%3.20%4.90%
20159.70%2.90%4.40%
20168.40%2.60%4.00%

More information

At-a-glance summary

In 2016, UK households were spending on average 4.0% of their total expenditure on energy, up from approximately 3% in the early 2000s. In 2016, households in the lowest income decile spent nearly 8.5% of their total expenditure on energy, this is down from the 10.6% observed in 2013 but well above 5.5% in 2004.

In 2015 the ONS changed how it reported data, from reporting the calendar year to the financial year. It reported both figures for 2014. From 2015-16 the chart reflects financial years rather than calendar years.

Relevance 

Energy is an essential service required for health and wellbeing. Consuming below the level of accepted thermal comfort may have serious health consequences, while worrying about how to meet fuel bills can also have psychological effects

UKRN affordability study

Regulators acting in the energy, water, communications, health, legal and finance sectors joined together in March 2014 to form the UK Regulators’ Network (UKRN). This group aims to ensure effective cooperation across sectors where it can benefit consumers.

We led the UKRN affordability project which was aimed at exploring and understanding the cross sector affordability pressures on households and assessed whether a cross sectoral approach could deliver improved outcomes, relieving pressures from consumers.

We published analysis of the affordability pressures faced by consumers across different sectors. We also examined affordability factors which impact future bills and fares.

Through the publications and update feed below you can access our outputs produced in relation to affordability.

Publications and updates

  • Published: 5th Mar 2002
  • Reports and plans
  • 1 Associated documents
Energy Advice Services Social Enterprise Business Plan

  • Published: 5th Mar 2002
  • Reports and plans
  • 1 Associated documents
Sponsored by npower

  • Published: 5th Mar 2002
  • Other
  • 1 Associated documents
This guide is intended to be used by Credit Union staff to provide information to service users on a wide range of domestic fuel, energy efficiency and income maximisation related issues

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