The Scottish Government has a statutory duty under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 to ‘ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that people are not living in fuel poverty in Scotland by November 2016’.
Until now, Scottish Ministers have insisted that they remained committed to the target despite all indications that the gulf could not be bridged. With the most recent official figures for the year 2014 showing that around 35% of Scottish households remain in fuel poverty, it was clear that efforts would not be sufficient.
There are currently around 845,000 households in fuel poverty in Scotland.
It is widely recognised that there are three main causes of fuel poverty and these are housing that is energy inefficient, high price of fuel bills and low disposable household income.
Most of the Scot-Govt’s focus in tackling fuel poverty has been on energy efficiency and there have been improvements in raising standards. While it is important to go on investing in making homes more energy efficient, it is also crucial to address all three causes of fuel poverty as much as possible, including working with other parts of government.
Prior to the Scottish parliamentary election in May this year, Energy Action Scotland – the national fuel poverty charity – warned the Scot-Govt. that it would not meet its fuel poverty target and asked for discussions to be opened to reset the target. It also issued six key recommendations on fuel poverty going forward.
Norman Kerr, Director of Energy Action Scotland, said: “Given the Scottish Government’s recognition that its fuel poverty target will not be met this year, we are calling on them to widen discussions to include key stakeholders and for there to be public consultation in order to reset the target as soon as possible.
“Momentum must not be lost and ambition to eradicate fuel poverty must not be lessened.
“The problem of cold, damp and expensive to heat homes must be addressed and there should be no fuel poverty in Scotland.”
Key Recommendations on Fuel Poverty from Energy Action Scotland (May 2016)
Reset the Target to End Fuel Poverty
Discussions on how to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland must be opened now. A new target that is realistic but ambitious must be set. It must be accompanied by a fuel poverty strategy and action plan with costs and timelines. It is essential that there is not a hiatus following the passing of the 2016 target date, which is now widely regarded as being unachievable.
Fund Fuel Poverty Programmes
In 2006 Energy Action Scotland estimated that £200 million per year each year for ten years would be required, from a variety of sources, to tackle fuel poverty. This level of expenditure has not been achieved and must now be re-evaluated. It is acknowledged that the Scottish Government does continue to fund fuel poverty programmes with a positive impact. Programmes designed to reduce fuel poverty across all parts of Scotland must continue to be funded. However, more timely and more comprehensive public reporting to ensure progress is being made is also required.
Consult Early on Energy Efficiency in the Private Sector
Moves to improve energy efficiency standards in private sector homes were shelved by the Scottish Government in 2015. Energy Action Scotland believes it is important not to lose momentum on this initiative and urges the Scottish Government to act early in the new parliamentary session. In particular, tenants in the private rented sector, where high levels of fuel poverty are experienced, should have similar support to that given to tenants in the social rented sector.
Pledge to make Fuel Poverty a Central Pillar of SEEP
As a result of making energy efficiency a National Infrastructure Priority, the Scottish Government says it will create Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP). Energy Action Scotland believes the Scottish Government must pledge from the outset that a sizable proportion of SEEP will be directed at home energy efficiency and at the poorest households in particular. Reducing fuel poverty must be at least equal in priority to reducing carbon.
Review New Devolved Powers in Relation to Fuel Poverty
Carry out a review of new devolved powers for Scotland in light of their contribution to tackling fuel poverty in a comprehensive new fuel poverty strategy.
Create a Fuel Poverty Cross-Departmental Group and a Cross-Party Group
Fuel poverty is a cross-cutting issue encompassing housing standards, energy affordability, low income, health impacts, advice and debt support services among others. Energy Action Scotland therefore believes the Scottish Government should set up a cross-departmental group, chaired by a Minister, to ensure a better understanding that tackling fuel poverty achieves positive outcomes and cost savings across government. Moreover, the creation of a Cross-Party Group on Fuel Poverty and Domestic Energy Efficiency is long overdue in the Scottish Parliament.