The advisory group tasked with reviewing the Scottish Government’s strategy for tackling fuel poverty has now published its final report together with its recommendations:
Firstly, the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum is urging Scottish Ministers to maintain much needed investment in energy efficiency programmes even at a time of budget constraints.
The forum’s findings indicate that the funding of fuel poverty alleviation initiatives do bring benefits to communities and individuals who would otherwise struggle to heat their homes affordably;
Secondly, putting resources towards the improvement of Scotland’s housing stock also has wider economic benefits and the Forum is recommending that the Government looks to using the opportunity as a means of up-skilling and supporting SMEs.
However, the forum warns that more must be done to ensure that rural and remote areas of the country, which often have high levels of fuel poverty, are better supported to access grant programmes and other forms of assistance.
Professor David Sigsworth, the independent Chair of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum, said: “Our final report is published at a time of great uncertainty in the energy market.
“Some good progress has been made with £74 million of Scottish Government funding being provided in the current financial year and nearly £80 million in 2014-2015 with expectations of significant further investment coming from Energy Company Obligation (ECO) commitments from the major fuel utilities.
“Much of the recent progress has now been thrown into question by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s autumn statement which radically altered the nature of ECO provision via the fuel utilities.
“There is a real threat to the Scottish Government’s ability to meet its statutory duty of eradicating fuel poverty, as far as is reasonably practicable, by 2016.
“While the Scottish Government has continued to honour its commitment to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016, neither they nor the Fuel Poverty Forum can be complacent about the scale of the task.
“The challenge is to find innovative ways of continuing to support the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPS) at the current level and to address failures in ECO provision to meet Scottish needs in rural areas and where homes are off the gas grid.
“Better ways must also be found of joining up health care provision and local authority social services to identify and improve the life of those suffering from deprivation through fuel poverty.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I welcome the publication of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum’s final report on its review of the Scottish Government’s fuel poverty strategy and thank Forum members for the work they have undertaken to date.
“I am pleased that the Forum has recognised this Government’s commitment in the report, and the work we have been doing to meet our target of eradicating fuel poverty by the end of November 2016.
“However, as the report highlights, our progress has been undermined by the UK Government’s decision to alter the nature of Energy Company Obligation (ECO) provision, slowing the pace at which it will be rolled out.
“Under independence we plan to permanently transfer responsibility for ECO and Warm Homes Discount from energy companies to the Scottish Government – meeting these costs from central resources and maintaining investment in energy efficiency.
“By passing on these long term cost reductions to their consumers, energy companies will be able to reduce bills year on year – in contrast to the short term fix proposed by the UK Government.
“The Forum’s report contains a number of recommendations which will be given serious consideration, and we will continue working with the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum in developing our strategy to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland.”