Call to reset fuel poverty elimination target date

Norman Kerr
Norman Kerr

National fuel poverty charity Energy Action Scotland has urged Scottish Ministers to reset the target to eliminate fuel poverty in Scotland.

Reacting to the publication of the final reports of the two short-life advisory groups set up by the Scottish Government to review fuel poverty in Scotland, the charity also endorsed the call for the new policy to “be firmly based on the principle of social justice”.

The statutory duty under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 stated that the Scottish Government must “ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that people are not living in fuel poverty in Scotland by November 2016”. As the Scottish Government has already said this target will not be met, Energy Action Scotland is now urging Ministers to use the two reports now published to redraw the fuel poverty strategy and to reset the target date to eradicate fuel poverty.

According to the charity, the range of recommendations included in the reports each require equal and careful consideration and not just a focus on the recommendation to review underlying aspects of the fuel poverty definition.

Norman Kerr, director of Energy Action Scotland, said: “There is a wealth of information in the two reports which Ministers must now consider in order to review the fuel poverty strategy for Scotland. Having recently set out its proposals to eradicate child poverty in Scotland by a set date, the Scottish Government now must do the same for resetting the almost expired fuel poverty eradication target date and set it in statute.

“The Scottish Government, and all political parties in Scotland, acknowledge the problem of fuel poverty and must be given credit for tackling the problem and continuing to fund programmes to that end. However, to meet their ambitions to end the blight of cold, damp homes, more action must now be taken.

“People across Scotland will want to know that one day the right that everyone has to be able to live in a warm, dry home at a price they can afford will be a reality.”

The Existing Homes Alliance called on the Scottish Government to accept as a matter of urgency the recommendation that it eliminates poor building energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty.

In particular, the Alliance urges all parties at Holyrood to support the recommendation of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group, of a milestone that ‘all properties of fuel poor households upgraded to at least an EPC band C by 2025’.

Setting and achieving this as a new objective would cut winter deaths, reduce fuel bills, promote employment across the country, help reduce emissions, and is supported in a joint statement of more than 50 organisations, the Alliance said.

Lori McElroy, chair of the Existing Homes Alliance, said: “When this target date was set for the elimination of fuel poverty, it was universally described as ambitious. For more than a decade experts have warned that a target alone was not enough, and that concerted action would be required so no-one is left in fuel poverty because of the state of their home. This earlier target has been missed because insufficient action has been taken since 2002, but today’s reports clearly show the way ahead.

“The Scottish Government has all the powers it needs to regulate and improve the quality of the homes we live in. With a consistent commitment, none of Scotland’s homes should be below the Energy Performance Certificate Band C standard by 2025.

“We are pleased to have seen renewed and strengthened commitments to energy efficiency this year, not just from the Scottish Government, but from all parties at Holyrood. The first test of those commitments will be the forthcoming Scottish Budget process. Will the money follow? Similarly, we know home insulation has been set as a national infrastructure priority: will the Band C target be incorporated there, and will the necessary regulations follow?”

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said: “The reports of the Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and the Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force are welcome. It is extremely disappointing that the target to end fuel poverty will not be met. While there has been investment in home energy efficiency in Scotland rising fuel prices have led to increased levels of fuel poverty. These reports provide an opportunity for the Scottish Government to take real action on home energy efficiency in order to address fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions.

“As the representative body for housing associations we know that setting minimum energy efficiency standards can drive innovation and investment – housing associations now have the most energy efficient homes in Scotland and have led on the installation of renewable heat. We therefore call on the Scottish Government to set a minimum home energy efficiency standard of EPC C, and to provide the investment necessary to achieve that standard, cut fuel poverty and create jobs.”

Craig Salter, energy spokesman for the Consumer Futures Unit at Citizens Advice Scotland, is a member of the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force.

He said: “Far too many households throughout Scotland cannot afford to heat their homes – but the problem is even more acute for those living in rural areas. At present, around 50 per cent of households in rural Scotland are in fuel poverty, compared with around 35 per cent in the rest of Scotland. It is clear that more needs to be done to address the issues facing rural areas.

“The report of the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Taskforce is a significant step forward in tackling fuel poverty in rural Scotland. It sets out practical steps for achieving affordable warmth for all consumers, particularly in relation to those who live off the gas grid and in remote areas, and can be at greater risk of falling into fuel poverty.

“The Consumer Futures Unit at CAS is taking forward a range of initiatives to address key issues raised by the group, including projects to develop fuel poverty and energy efficiency advice and support services available in rural areas, and evaluating the impact of energy efficiency measures in rural Scotland.

“This report is encouraging, and we look forward to the Scottish Government’s response. We hope that Government, energy suppliers, organisations and communities can work together to take forward the task force recommendations, and work towards ending fuel poverty in rural Scotland.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, added: “It is clear from these reports that we must do much more to tackle the scourge of fuel poverty in Scotland, especially in our many rural communities where the impact can be most profound.

“Fuel poverty has a huge impact on people’s lives – especially the young and elderly. It’s unacceptable that in 21st century Scotland many households still face the stark choice of heating or eating and that thousands of extra deaths each year are attributed to the cold conditions.

“Missing our current fuel poverty targets by such a margin is evidence that the current approach from the Scottish Government to tackling this issue is simply not enough to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland.

“(Yesterday’s) reports highlight that we urgently need a new plan, with a joined up approach from across government and a focus on tackling all causes of fuel poverty, with new, robust targets and an absolute commitment to hitting those targets.”

Scottish Land & Estates, which represents rural businesses, farms and landowners across the country, was a member of the Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force and has welcomed the recommendations of the two reports.

Katy Dickson, senior policy officer (business, property and connectivity) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Those living in rural areas are often the most adversely affected by fuel poverty and there is clearly a need for government, agencies and stakeholders to work together in order to tackle this continuing problem.

“We welcome these reports as a good basis for clear action to help those struggling with fuel poverty. The Strategic Working Group states that the new fuel poverty strategy ‘must also go beyond improving energy performance of homes and put emphasis on the other three drivers of fuel poverty - income, energy costs and how energy is used in the home.’

“This, alongside, the Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force’s emphasis on ‘rural-proofing’ the strategy, ensuring people living in off-gas, older properties are not disadvantaged, are strongly supported.

“Dormont Estate in Lockerbie, one of our members, was a case study for the Strategic Working Group who witnessed what the estate has achieved for local residents through its Passivhaus development. This has been a remarkable success and whilst action needs to be taken to tackle fuel efficiency on homes which are already built, there is much to be achieved by sharing the best practice established through new housing such as that at Dormont.

“Our Helping It Happen campaign showcases a number of innovative approaches that our members are taking to addressing fuel poverty and we want to see more and more examples of this across Scotland.”

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