The Scottish Government will not meet its target to end fuel poverty
The chair of The Independent Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group informed the Housing Minister that the fuel poverty target will not be met this year.
He also outlined that the group’s formal report, which will be published later this year, is likely to include recommendations on reviewing the definition of fuel poverty, a renewed strategy and targets for eradicating fuel poverty, and a balanced focus on the causes of fuel poverty.
The Scottish Government has a statutory duty under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 to ‘ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that people are not living in fuel poverty in Scotland by November 2016’.
Until now, Scottish Ministers have insisted that they remained committed to the target despite all indications that the gulf could not be bridged, with the most recent official figures for the year 2014 showing that around 35 per cent of Scottish households remain in fuel poverty.
It is widely recognised that there are three main causes of fuel poverty and these are housing that is not energy inefficient, high price of fuel bills and low disposable household income.
Most of the Scottish Government’s focus in tackling fuel poverty has been on energy efficiency and there have been improvements in raising standards. While it is important to go on investing in making homes more energy efficient, it is also crucial to address all three causes of fuel poverty as much as possible, including working with other parts of government.
Responding to the findings the Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, updated parliament, confirming the Government’s commitment to eradicating fuel poverty and outlining the progress made so far.
Mr Stewart said: “I would like to thank everyone involved in helping the Scottish Government’s efforts to eradicate fuel poverty in our country. We know that increasing energy efficiency is the most sustainable way to reducing people’s fuel bills and we remain committed to this.
“This Government has allocated over half a billion pounds since 2009 and this year we are making available more than £103 million to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency. This money will be used to help install energy efficiency measures to thousands of homes across Scotland, and build on more than 1 million measures already delivered to almost 1 million Scottish households since 2008.
“Our record investment is reflected in the big improvements in the energy efficiency of Scotland’s housing. Two out of five homes are now in the top three ratings for energy efficiency, an increase of 71 per cent since 2010 and 11 per cent in the last year alone.
“While we have welcomed this success, above-inflation energy price increases that are beyond our control have greatly impacted on Scottish households. Based on the expert advice we have now received, we must accept that fuel poverty will not be eradicated this year.
“We remain committed to continuing our efforts in this area and continue to work with stakeholders to review the fuel poverty action plan, including the fuel poverty eradication target.”
Norman Kerr, director of the national fuel poverty charity Energy Action Scotland, said: “Given the Scottish Government’s recognition that its fuel poverty target will not be met this year, we are calling on them to widen discussions to include key stakeholders and for there to be public consultation in order to reset the target as soon as possible.
“Momentum must not be lost and ambition to eradicate fuel poverty must not be lessened.
“The problem of cold, damp and expensive to heat homes must be addressed and there should be no fuel poverty in Scotland.”