SFHA Head of Public Affairs Sarah Boyack, pictured above, responds to the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty statement, giving a cautious welcome to proposals:
We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to ending fuel poverty and its intention to enshrine the commitment in law. We also welcome that the Government continues to fund fuel poverty schemes, which other parts of Great Britain do not receive.
We believe, however, that there needs to be a significant increase in investment in home energy efficiency — in line with the Scottish Government’s commitment to make energy efficiency a National Infrastructure Priority. We also believe that minimum energy efficiency standards have to be set for all home tenures — not just for social housing.
The proposals come at a time when fuel poverty levels in Scotland, under the current definition, remain unacceptably high at 31%. In rural areas off the gas grid, where energy prices are higher and homes are often hard to treat, fuel poverty levels are also much higher. Addressing fuel poverty in rural Scotland should therefore be a major priority for the new strategy. We are disappointed that the Scottish Government does not plan to include an uplift for rural areas in the Minimum Income Standard that will be used in calculating fuel poverty. Research commissioned by SFHA and others found that people living in rural and remote areas require higher incomes, and housing related costs, such as higher energy bills, are a significant contributor to this.1
While we welcome the commitment to focus on households in fuel poverty, the Government must not lose sight of the need to increase energy efficiency in the nation’s homes in order to insulate against rising energy prices. Increasing home energy efficiency has the additional benefit of reducing carbon emissions, in line with the challenging climate change targets, and creating jobs and training in a labour intensive industry2.
Housing associations have the skills and the groupings of property to lead on home energy efficiency and community renewables projects — they already have the most energy-efficient homes by tenure in Scotland3. Housing associations need funding support to continue this investment and lead progress to an energy-efficient low carbon Scotland, where fuel poverty is consigned to the past.
- A Minimum Income Standard for Remote Rural Scotland
- Investment in Energy Efficiency creating jobs/stimulating the economy. Consumer Futures Scotland (2014) – The Economic Benefits of Investing in Energy Efficiency in Fuel Poor Households
- Fuel Poverty Levels Scottish Government (2016) – Scotland’s House Condition Survey 2015 – Key Findings.