£16m boost aimed at tackling fuel poverty

University of Glasgow

THE Scottish Government has announced a raft of plans to help both businesses and individuals as we move towards the winter.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced a £320m package of support for businesses recently, whilst Housing Minister Kevin Stewart confirmed £16m of funding to tackle the constant threat of fuel poverty across the country.

Energy Action Scotland reported that 25% of homes in the country suffer from fuel poverty, with 279,000 of those in the bracket of suffering ‘extreme poverty’. That has prompted the new input of capital, which will be aimed at helping to improve insulation in existing properties and to help install energy-efficient heating systems in homes. That, in turn, will help drive Scotland towards the Net Zero targets aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

The money will be split across two bodies, the first being Warmer Homes Scotland, the national fuel poverty scheme. It will receive £6m, whilst area-based schemes overseen by local authorities will share a further £10m to deliver help directly where it is required.

“I’m pleased to be this providing additional funding for the area-based schemes and Warmer Homes Scotland, which between them have supported more than 120,000 households across the country,” Kevin Stewart said of the announcement.

“This new investment will help to improve the lives of fuel-poor people in Scotland, enabling them to live in warm, comfortable homes and pay less on their fuel bills while living in a greener, more sustainable way.”

Fuel poverty may affect 25% of the population, thought to be in the region of 680,000 individual homes, but it is not just those people who are at risk from heating problems over the winter. The Scottish climate is changeable and often harsh, meaning even well-funded homes come to rely heavily on their heating system. A breakdown can be catastrophic, but it is also avoidable with newer appliances and more energy efficient boilers now on the market.

However, much of the country may not be able to stretch to a new system, even though it is not as expensive as many think. The new boiler installations prices on HomeServe show how a new model won’t always cost the earth, especially not with a like-for-like replacement, but it is still an outlay than some families at the lower end of the income spectrum may not be able to afford to cover. If their system is older, fuel may be costing them more than it needs to through inefficiency and that is where the new scheme should be able to help, not only installing a more reliable system but one that uses fewer resources and therefore costs less money.

Warmer Homes Scotland was founded in September 2015 and has since improved the lives of 20,000 customers, helping them to make their homes warmer and more efficient. Not only has that helped homeowners directly with costs, but it also helped to improve energy ratings of houses, making them feel warmer as well as being cheaper to heat. Beyond the national scheme, the area-based initiatives have helped more than 100,000 households since they were first launched in 2013.

The recent announcement will hopefully make this winter more bearable for many families, if not then certainly that of 2021.

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