Blog: Scotland needs comprehensive fuel poverty strategy – not unrealistic targets

Sean McLaughlin
Sean McLaughlin

With November’s fuel poverty targets set to be missed, pressure needs to be applied to the Scottish Government to deliver a Warm Homes Bill to tackle Scotland’s 1.5m cold homes, says Sean McLaughlin, managing director of Matilda’s Planet.

The SNP’s pledge to introduce a Warm Homes Bill to tackle fuel poverty and increase energy efficiency during this Parliament has been heralded as a bold move, but there are reasons why their minority administration needs to pull out the stops to deliver this sooner rather than later.

In 2002 the Scottish Government committed to eradicating fuel poverty as far as is reasonably practicable by November 2016. As this target is impossible to meet Scotland now needs a comprehensive and realistic new strategy to improve domestic energy efficiency in order to eliminate fuel poverty and eradicate Scotland’s scourge of cold homes. It’s time for solid deliverable plans not more grand aspirations without a strategy to deliver them.

In April the Existing Homes Alliance compiled some excellent data which revealed there are an estimated 1.5m ‘cold homes’ in Scotland – homes with Energy Performance Certificates ranging between D to F ratings.

cold homes imageThis research reveals clearly that this is not just a problem for social landlords to deal with. There are only around 650,000 social housing properties in Scotland so even if all of them (which is most certainly not the case as social landlords have been among the most proactive in improving their housing stock) were in need of attention that would still leave more than 800,000 homes in private ownership to be improved.

While the definition of a ‘cold home’ is complex one, the need to tackle fuel poverty and improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes is beyond doubt.

With Scotland suffering from so many cold homes – what’s the best way to tackle the problem?

Earlier this month a lot of attention was paid to a combined lobby of MSPs, WWF Scotland, and Edinburgh University which called for greater investment in district heating.

While we applaud the call for investment in greener ways of using and generating energy such as wind farms and district heating, we should not forget that Scotland would be even greener and Scottish households even better off if they did not need to turn their heating on in the first place. The cheapest energy and lowest carbon energy is that which we do not use.

Better insulated homes reduce the need to heat homes – and the planet – unnecessarily.

Taking a fabric first approach would enable Scotland to minimise household bills and carbon emissions further than the other methods.

One element of the research from the Existing Homes Alliance was crystal clear – rural and remote communities in Scotland have a larger problem with energy inefficient homes.

Argyll and Bute, Banffshire and the Buchan Coast, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Dumfriesshire, Eastwood, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Skye, Lochaber, and Badenoch were among the remote constituencies where three quarters or more of the housing stock were estimated to have Energy Performance Certificates rated from D to F.

With cold, energy-inefficient homes a problem the length and breadth of Scotland retrofit should be considered as much of a national infrastructure priority as the new Borders railway or the Queensferry Crossing.

We need organisations like the Existing Homes Alliance to keep up the pressure on the SNP to make sure Scotland’s homes get warmer sooner rather than later. If not, then we will be sitting talking about another missed target in a few years’ time.

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