Goalpost-shifting makes ending fuel-poverty a mirage, says Sigsworth

fuel povertyDespite an increase in funding by the Scottish Government for energy efficiency programmes, changes to similar initiatives at a GB level will make it much harder to achieve progress on tackling fuel poverty in Scotland over the next two years.

This is one of the key conclusions of a report published today by Prof. David Sigsworth, Chairman of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum.

The remit of the Fuel Poverty Forum is to work together with the Scottish Government to ensure that so far as is reasonably practicable, no-one is living in fuel poverty by 2016.

The report states that the proposal to upgrade the energy efficiency of all building stock, as a National Infrastructure Priority provides a much needed turning point in the fight to eradicate the growing problem of fuel poverty.

With the highest levels of fuel poverty being found in island and other rural areas of Scotland, the report finds that the current emphasis on reducing carbon is putting these communities at a disadvantage. Remote communities with properties and climatic conditions that need more expensive improvements are largely missing out in current programmes. 

The Fuel Poverty Forum therefore supports a full implementation of the Smith Commission recommendation on devolution of responsibility for spending Scotland’s share of ECO energy efficiency funds.

 A further recommendation made by the Forum stems from the recognition of a major challenge in how to identify households who need the most help to stay warm at an affordable cost.  The Forum views it as crucial to progress that energy efficiency programmes are integrated more closely with health and social care services.

 Professor Sigsworth said: “Even with the announcement of a new National Infrastructure Priority the current challenge to eradicate fuel poverty is increasing in difficulty.”

“Scottish Government programmes have delivered energy efficiency measures way ahead of target and yet fuel poverty has still increased largely due to high fuel bills. Efforts must now be re-doubled in order to make progress on fuel poverty.

 “There are multiple reasons for investing in tackling fuel poverty. In addition to reducing household fuel costs, energy efficiency programmes are also vehicles to enable sustainable growth in communities with green job creation and skills for local labour forces.”

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