A pilot will see 220 rural households offered targeted support to cut their energy bills – while an independent review of how fuel poverty is defined is to take place.
Communities, Social Security, and Equalities Secretary Angela Constance set out the developments as she responded to the recommendations of the Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force.
Ms Constance said both the pilot and the review will inform the consultation on a new fuel poverty strategy and target - which will be published later this year.
Advisers from Home Energy Scotland (HES) will visit selected homes in rural areas to see what more can be done to reduce their fuel bills. The £300,000 12-month Homecare pilot will be evaluated before a decision is taken on rolling it out to households nationwide.
Meanwhile, an independent panel of four academic experts has been established to consider changes to how fuel poverty is defined. This follows the working group conclusions that the current definition may be impeding efforts to target those most in need.
Making the announcement during a visit in Edinburgh to the home of Donnah Anderson –the 100,000th property to benefit under the Home Energy Efficiency Programme since 2013 – Ms Constance said: “We have made good progress and significant investment in tackling fuel poverty, supporting people who need help, like Donnah and her family. However, there are still far too many people struggling with unaffordable energy costs. That is why we’re developing a new long-term strategy to tackle fuel poverty and will introduce a Warm Homes Bill to set a new target.
“The HES pilot is about providing tailored support to people in the greatest need – helping them lower their fuel bills and hopefully move out of fuel poverty altogether.
“I’m also pleased to announce a review of the definition of fuel poverty, which will look at whether changes are needed to help us better target our efforts to eradicate fuel poverty in the forthcoming Warm Homes Bill.”
Donnah Anderson is 39 and lives in Duddingston with her husband and two children. She received help under the Home Energy Efficiency Programme, including a gas connection, boiler installation and radiators in place of broken electric heaters and a faulty hot water tank.
She said: “I contacted Home Energy Scotland for advice about my heating but I had no idea that I would qualify for a new boiler and new radiators! I really can’t thank everyone enough for the lovely job that they have done. My son is thrilled to bits and I’m delighted the kids now have a bedroom that’s so warm.”
The Scottish Government’s response to reports by the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force is published here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/03/1009
The HES Homecare pilot will take place in two rural locations, with details to be announced shortly.
The panel to review the definition of fuel poverty is made up of:
Professor Christine Liddell MBE, Ulster University;
Professor Glen Bramley, Heriot-Watt University;
Professor Janette Webb, University of Edinburgh;
Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Heriot-Watt University.
The panel will report their findings this summer. The Scottish Government will then consult on a new long-term fuel poverty strategy this autumn, including proposals for a new eradication target as part of the Warm Homes Bill.
The Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and the Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force reported their recommendations last October.
From 2009 to 2021 the Scottish Government will have allocated more than £1 billion under home energy policies to make homes warmer and cheaper to heat. Around two in five Scottish homes are in the top three energy efficiency rating – up 74% since 2010.
Following the Energy Summit in December 2016, Ms Constance wrote to energy suppliers, focusing on actions to help low income households paying more for their energy.