Holyrood will take a longer-term approach to reduce the number of fuel homes in Scotland to avoid undermining efforts to expand lower carbon heating aims, a new report has found
The Scottish Government has committed to limit national fuel poverty rates to no more than five per cent of the country’s homes by 2040. The devolved body hopes adopting a longer-term target will allow for more widespread adoption of low carbon heating.
Findings from a report into a proposed Fuel Poverty Bill by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee noted arguments against calls to bring forward the proposed 2040 aims over fears such a decision could undermine national climate change goals.
The committee’s report said the Scottish Government believed that demands to meet the five per cent target within a reduced timeline may encourage a higher take up of higher carbon heating fuels. Alternatively, more work would be required to upgrade heating systems to reduce their overall carbon emissions, according to the findings.
The Committee stated, “The Policy Memorandum adds that currently there is uncertainty on how to best decarbonise Scotland’s energy networks.”
“It says that decisions regarding the operation of the gas network are reserved to the UK Government and there is not yet a strong evidence base on how best to decarbonise it.”
After the failure of a previous target by 2016 to entirely eliminate fuel poverty, used to define properties where 10 per cent of annual income is spent on powering heating systems, the latest draft fuel poverty strategy was welcomed by the committee.
Its report noted that the proposals were still a “work in progress” that required Holyrood to take account of expertise from a range of sources from the private and charity sector in order to balance energy efficiency goals with fuel poverty planning.
Other recommendations for the Scottish Government included considering specific focuses for tackling fuel poor homes in remote rural and island areas, as well as the private rented sector.
Holyrood is also asked to set out clear plans to monitor the value for money from existing energy efficiency measures, while also offering support to homes that have seen ineffective repairs in their heating technology.
A separate target for individuals living in ‘extreme fuel poverty’, whereby 20 per cent of annual income goes on fuel, should also be considered in the final bill, the report added.
James Dornan MSP, convener for the Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee, said despite Scotland’s status as being energy rich, fuel poverty was a significant concern for many people.
He said, “The stark reality is that over a quarter of households in Scotland still face extreme difficulties heating their homes, and this can rise to well over double that in rural and island communities.”
“The committee welcomes the Fuel Poverty Bill’s core purpose, which could make a real difference to the life of thousands of Scottish families. However, the longer-term ambition should be the eradication of fuel poverty.