Elizabeth Leighton: Cash for energy efficiency projects must not be allowed to go unspent
Elizabeth Leighton on the tragedy of underspending on energy efficiency funding.
Energy prices are causing real harm right across Scotland with thousands of households being pushed into fuel poverty. The good news is, we already know how to fix this – improving the energy efficiency of homes reduces how much energy is needed to heat them, saving money and cutting carbon emissions – it’s a win-win.
The Scottish Government funds councils to deliver area-based energy efficiency projects - these transform whole neighbourhoods and are exactly the kind of projects that we need to be seeing more of.
The tragedy is that there is a risk some of this funding will be unspent while people are choosing between heating and eating. This happened last year, though some of this was because of COVID-19. Councils must receive whatever help is needed to make sure this funding is used to get homes insulated and save lives this winter.
An immediate step would be for the Scottish Government to commit to multi-year funding so councils can develop long-term plans and deliver schemes that will run over several financial years. Councils could then produce more realistic and deliverable programmes than the current funding allows.
The cost of labour and materials is rising, increasing the amount that homeowners have to contribute towards these projects, making it unaffordable for some. The Scottish Government should increase the cap on support for homeowners, reducing how much fuel poor households pay towards making their homes warmer and cheaper to heat.
Scotland is ahead of the game in many ways when it comes to climate change - our energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes are the envy of many other countries.
But our homes are amongst the coldest and leakiest in Western Europe and the Scottish Government must take action so money for these projects does not go unspent.
- Elizabeth Leighton is director of the Existing Homes Alliance - a coalition of housing, environmental, fuel poverty, consumer and industry organisations that believes Scotland’s existing homes must be transformed to help tackle fuel poverty and climate change.