Highland Council and SSE Renewables to offer support to those facing extreme fuel poverty

Highland Council and SSE Renewables to offer support to those facing extreme fuel poverty

SSE Renewables senior community investment manager Lyndsay Dougan (left) with Highland Council's project manger for Climate Change and Energy Isla MacMillan

Highland Council and SSE Renewables are joining forces to help Highland households facing extreme fuel poverty make energy saving adaptations to their homes.

The cost of living crisis is having a devastating impact on households across Highland. Scottish Government figures indicate 33% of households in Highland are experiencing fuel poverty, compared to the national average of 24%. Figures also estimate that 22% of Highland households are facing extreme fuel poverty.

Due to rising costs in energy prices, it is anticipated that these figures will increase significantly. For example, 62% of the properties currently signed up for the 2022/23 air source heat pump programme are classed as ‘extreme fuel poor’.

Highland Council has been delivering the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficient Scotland – Area Based Scheme for over nine years, which offers households the opportunity to benefit from grant funded innovative, energy efficiency measures, which have the potential to improve people’s living conditions.

The scheme has this week received vital grant support from SSE Renewables Highland Sustainable Development Fund, which will provide additional funds to reduce or remove entirely householder contributions for those in extreme fuel poverty.

The SSE Renewables fund is part of the organisation’s commitment to the Scottish Government’s Good Practice Principals for Community Benefits from Onshore Wind. SSE re-invests part of the profits from wind farms back into local communities.

The Sustainable Development Fund supports strategic projects across the Highland local authority area and allows SSE to direct support to projects that can achieve significant impact in local communities.

The Fund has offered Highland Council £1 million of grant funding to be spent over 2022/23 and 2023/24 with the option to extend funding to 2024/25 if necessary. The funding will be used exclusively to support Highland households in extreme fuel poverty.

The EES:ABS grant and new funding will be used to reduce/remove household contributions on a range of energy efficiency measures including:

  • Air Source Heat Pump
  • Cavity Wall Insulation
  • Loft Insulation
  • External Wall Insulation
  • Solar PV and battery

While the programme adopts a fabric first approach, the 2022/23 programme has a particular focus on installation of air source heat pumps and also encouraging householders to consider Cavity Wall, Loft Insulation and solar panels and battery storage.

Funding from the Scottish Government grant covers the cost of the installation, in the most part, although some works may require a household contribution to meet the shortfall between installation cost and funding available. This is where the SSE Renewables Grant can help those experiencing extreme fuel poverty.

The Scottish Government grant is available for owner occupiers and private rented properties subject to eligibility, grant funding cannot be used to cover installation costs for social properties (either council or registered landlord).

The council is encouraging households to apply for its Energy Efficient Scotland: Area Based Scheme (EES:ABS) as part of plans to ease fuel poverty in the region.

Without EES:ABS there is currently no other long-term support to households in fuel poverty and those vulnerable to living with the effects of a cold home.

Leader of Highland Council, Cllr Raymond Bremner said: “Highland is experiencing some of the highest levels of fuel poverty in Scotland. It is crucial that we encourage as many people as possible to sign up to the Energy Efficient Scotland – Area Based Scheme to benefit from grant funding to carry out energy efficiency improvements to their homes, improving comfort levels and attempt to minimise the impact of rising fuel costs.

“We are delighted to announce the arrival of grant support from SSE Renewables which, through the area-based scheme, will help us deliver efficiency savings to those households most in need.”

Cllr Bremner also highlighted that the scheme is open to all owner occupier and privately rented properties who meet eligibility criteria and encouraged members of the public to make inquiries about the scheme.

He added: “One of the key issues we have faced to date is a lack of sign-ups for the scheme. We are encouraging local members to promote this scheme through their ward meetings to highlight its many benefits.

“On top of the financial savings the scheme also delivers significant carbon savings and enables householders to meet the challenges of climate change and improve properties energy efficiency rating in accordance with Scottish Government targets.”

Chair of the Sustainable Development Fund, Lord Jack McConnell, said: “The Sustainable Development Fund is focused on creating lasting transformation in the Highlands. The £1 million investment in improving energy efficiency for Highland households is the largest donation made by the fund. The funding will help many vulnerable residents benefit from warm, sustainable homes for years to come.”

The programme, on average, has annual carbon savings of 20,897 tonnes (pre-COVID figure), making a significant contribution to a low carbon Highland.

Over the last nine years the scheme has leveraged around £34m of external funding to the Highlands to deliver energy efficiency measures to over 3,100 privately owned and privately rented properties throughout the Highlands.

For details on how to sign up for the programme visit Highland Council’s dedicated webpage. Alternatively, you can email EES-ABS@highland.gov.uk for further information or telephone Home Energy Scotland for free on 0808 808 2282 for impartial energy advice, to discuss funding options currently available and assess your eligibility for the scheme.

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