Campaigners ramp up pressure on government as new figures reveal 27% living in fuel poverty

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Households are at the mercy of volatile energy prices say campaigners, who call on the Scottish Government to take action to make homes warmer

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5th December 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

More than a quarter of Scottish households are still living in fuel poverty despite a fall in fuel prices.

New figures today suggest almost 100,000 fewer households were classed as fuel poor last year compared to the previous year.

However, as two third of the reduction can be attributed to the lower price of domestic fuels, campaigners say far too many Scottish households are still at the mercy of volatile energy prices.

They are calling on the Scottish Government to bring in more measures to help people upgrade their central heating systems and insulate their homes.

The figures released by Scottish Government show that in 2016, 26.5% (or around 649,000) households were fuel poor and 7.5% (or 183,000 households) were living in extreme fuel poverty. This is a fall since the previous year when 748,000 households (30.7%) were fuel poor.

Norman Kerr, director of Energy Action Scotland, said: "I am pleased to see the number of fuel poor households decrease, which is a move in the right direction. The news that fewer people are living in cold damp homes is to be welcomed but unfortunately a return to 2007 levels of fuel poverty is far from job done. 

"The action the Scottish Government is already taking to improve the housing stock must in fact be stepped up and this is abundantly apparent in rural areas where fuel poverty levels have remained the same.

"This is particularly important at a time when Ofgem figures show that while the number of people in debt to suppliers has fallen, the average debt has increased significantly.

“The progress made on solving the problem of cold, damp, and unaffordable to heat homes must not be lost, but can and should be built upon with increased investment and a national strategy which is capable of eradicating fuel poverty well before the proposed date of 2040."

Improvements in energy efficiency took around 30,000 households out of fuel poverty in 2016 and have helped to cut home energy bills by nearly £300 on average over the last decade, said WWF Scotland.

It argues that investment in making our homes and buildings more energy efficient is a crucial part of the fight against climate change as well as creating jobs across Scotland and improving health and wellbeing.

If the Scottish Government is serious about insulating people from the effects of volatile energy prices, it must increase investment in energy efficiency to at least £240m this year - Sarah Beattie Smith

Sarah Beattie-Smith, senior climate and energy policy officer at the charity, said: "If the Scottish Government is serious about insulating people from the effects of volatile energy prices, it must increase investment in energy efficiency to at least £240 million this year and use next year's warm homes bill to set ambitious new targets and milestones for a transformation of Scotland's homes over the coming decades.”

Housing associations have the most energy efficient stock and their overall fuel poverty level has decreased by 0.5%.

However, at 27%, more housing association households in fuel poverty compared to the national average.

Sarah Boyack, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations' head of public affairs, said the figures demonstrate that social landlords need more support to help low income tenants who are particularly vulnerable to fuel poverty.

She said: "These latest figures should act as a wake-up call, with more than a quarter of households in Scotland still in fuel poverty. We are calling on the Scottish Government to increase its funding for fuel poverty schemes to support investment in home energy efficiency, micro-renewables, and energy advice for households struggling with fuel bills.

"These figures are timely as they come a week before the Scottish Government unveils its draft budget for 2018-19 and with a consultation open on a new Fuel Poverty Strategy for Scotland. The government must take this opportunity to ramp up investment to eliminate fuel poverty once and for all." 

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “While this is obviously welcome news we will continue to take action across government to reduce fuel poverty in Scotland which is why we currently have a consultation on a new fuel poverty strategy - including setting new statutory targets and a revised definition of fuel poverty that will place a greater emphasis on households with lower incomes and high housing and fuel costs.”