£438 fuel poverty gap for customers
People struggling with energy costs face a gap of £438 between their bills and what they can afford to pay - an increase of almost £200 on a decade ago.
A new measure for fuel poverty, highlighting families facing both high energy bills and low incomes, showed just under 2.4 million households in England were struggling to meet costs in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available.
The new system records fewer households in fuel poverty than the previous measure, which highlighted those who had to pay more than 10% of their income to heat their homes properly. Under the old measure 3.2 million homes were struggling.
Both methods show a drop in fuel poverty between 2010 and 2011, although the old 10% measure shows the number of households struggling with bills has more than doubled since 2003.
Under the new measure, the number in fuel poverty has stayed roughly constant in the past decade, at around 2.4 million or 11% of households, but the gap between what people can afford to pay and their fuel bills has jumped since 2003.
On average, the gap is now £438, compared with £248 in 2003. Across England those in fuel poverty faced bills totalling £1.05 billion more than they could afford, up from £606 million in 2003, the official figures show.
Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: "This new, better targeted definition will help get support to the most vulnerable in society.
"Two million households received cuts to their bills last winter under the Warm Homes Discount, and the budget will continue to increase each year, up to £320m for 2015/16.
"We are pressing the big six to make sure the poorest households aren't stuck on expensive tariffs, to simplify their rates and make it easier to switch."