The government has released its official fuel poverty statistics for England showing 3.26 million households are in fuel poverty. It shows that the government has overwhelmingly failed to meet its interim target of getting fuel poor homes to EPC E by 2020, ahead of its statutory target for all fuel poor homes to EPC C by 2030.

Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA), previously warned that this target would be missed by 150 years on current progress and, based on these new figures, they estimate it will now take 300 years to catch up.

But this only tells part of the story, says National Energy Action. The data has a one-year time lag. Last February, the average annual energy bill was £1,271 and now it is £2,500 but set to rise to an annual average of £3,000 from April.

Chief executive of National Energy Action, Adam Scorer, says: “Over 3.2 million households in England are in fuel poverty according to government data, but the worst of the energy crisis is not represented – people being forced to self-disconnect, struggling with ice on the inside of their windows and living with damp and cold. And the situation will not get better. From April the average annual bill will rise from £2,500 to £3,000 and that means without Government intervention – both for energy efficiency measures and financial support with bills – the number in fuel poverty will continue to rise.”

This comes after new polling by YouGov exclusively for National Energy Action of 2055 adults in Great Britain shows that 85% say that they support the UK Government providing financial support to low-income homeowners. It also showed less support (58%) for the UK Government providing help to middle income homeowners, and overall opposed it (80%) for high-income homeowners.

Polling also showed that Great British adults preferred the government to prioritise the most vulnerable when it comes to providing financial support to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. This includes low-income households (32%), clinically vulnerable people (39%) and the elderly (40%).

While the survey shows the British public supports help for low-income households, these new government statistics show that 160,000 low-income homes have been left particularly exposed to the impacts of the energy crisis. This is due to the government missing the 2020 Fuel Poverty Milestone for all fuel poor homes in England to reach EPC E by the end of 2020.Those households in EPC F/G properties need to spend £1,785 more than equivalent EPC C homes to stay warm at current prices, an aggregate of £291m.

While the government has made some improvements over the last two years with fuel poverty schemes, with the introduction of the Home Upgrade Grant and increased funding for the new iteration of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO4). However, its consultation on a new scheme to start in 2023/24 called ECO+ has been deliberately constructed in a way that will help middle income households at the expense of – households, meaning that 150,000 low-income households could be missed out.

Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director, Generation Rent, said: “Progress on making homes in England more energy efficient has been unforgivably slow, making this winter’s crisis worse than it could have been – and private renters have had the roughest deal.

“Landlords are only required to improve the very worst homes, and even though retrofit grants are available for fuel poor households, the risk of no-fault eviction or an unaffordable rent increase means that few tenants have the confidence to apply for improvements. As a result, millions of people are living in homes that are too expensive to heat properly and at a high risk of mould problems.

“The government could jump-start the retrofit of private rented homes by increasing the minimum energy efficiency rating to Band C, and giving tenants who get a means-tested grant a longer period of protection from no-fault eviction and limits on rent increases. That would help landlords access funds to meet their legal obligations while making sure that tenants enjoy the energy savings in full.”