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Scottish Fuel Poverty Statement

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The Scottish Fuel Poverty Statement

6 Moving Forward Tackling Fuel Poverty in scotland

6.1 Over the coming months, we and our partners will continue to make progress in tackling fuel poverty through the programmes and initiatives set out in the previous chapters. However, we also plan to supplement this with a range of additional activity to ensure that we continue to work towards our goal of ensuring that as far as practicable, people do not live in fuel poverty in Scotland within fifteen years. Income maximisation will be a core element of our work programme.

Key elements of our forward work programme

  • Developing knowledge and monitoring change;
  • Awareness raising;
  • Housing improvement measures;
  • Energy efficiency measures;
  • Partnership working and local co-ordination.

Developing knowledge and monitoring change

6.2 If we are to ensure that our resources are properly targeted, and that they are having an impact on the levels of fuel poverty in Scotland, then it will be essential for us to:

  • improve our knowledge base about fuel poverty, about the energy efficiency of Scotland's housing stock and about the links between fuel poverty and health;
  • to continue to evaluate interventions;
  • and to create mechanisms by which we are able to monitor change on a more regular basis.

Using the Scottish House Condition Survey

6.3 One of the most important sources of information about fuel poverty is the Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS). Detailed information on Fuel Poverty from the 2002 Scottish House Condition Survey will be available in late 2003, and this will help us to track change in relation to the overall numbers of households in fuel poverty. It will also enable us to understand more about the effect of improvements in housing quality as a result of recent investment programmes, and will give us an important source of information to help us set priorities for the future.

6.4 The 2002 SHCS will provide baseline data on fuel poverty as well as analysis, for the first time, of change since the 1996 SHCS. The 2002 survey instruments have been updated to reflect changes to the NHER software and to improve the accuracy of the income data collected. Improved data on occupants' health will also be collected and we will seek to link this to the fuel poverty analysis.

6.5 We are currently considering the merits of moving from a survey every five years to a continuous survey. This would mean that we would have access to more frequent, but less comprehensive information, though by combining survey years together on a rolling basis (for example, over a three year or five year period) we would be able to track change over time with greater certainty. A decision will be taken later this year.

Developing a more comprehensive data set

6.6 Alongside the Scottish House Condition Survey work, we are committed to developing alternative sources of valid and reliable data in order to reduce our reliance on the SHCS. Some limited information can already be obtained from alternative sources such as energy audits of individual dwellings and local housing surveys. We are committed to exploring how we can make greater use of these, and to developing alternative sources. We will use these sources to build up supplementary information about the extent and causes of fuel poverty in Scotland. Wherever possible, we will ensure that new data is consistent and comparable with the baseline picture that we can derive from the Scottish House Condition Survey.

6.7 This dataset will need to include information about the three main causes of fuel poverty - prices, incomes, and energy efficiency. As well as providing snapshots of the position at particular points in time, we would also like to use this information to develop a more dynamic model. Such a model could be used to explore or forecast the impact of possible changes in one or more of these variables on the numbers of people in fuel poverty and we will explore the feasibility of such an approach. Of particular value in this area is being able to track the effect of using different models of household income in defining fuel poverty.

6.8 We will also continue to supplement information from the Scottish House Condition Survey with additional research. For example, we have commissioned a four year project to track the health impact of Warm Deal and other housing improvement programmes. As well as this, we will continue to undertake rigorous evaluations of our chosen interventions such as Warm Deal and the Central Heating Programme to ensure that we are continuing to impact on fuel poverty, and that the chosen methods are efficient, effective, and are providing good value for money. In addition, the Energy Saving Trust in Scotland will explore the possibility of using its Home Energy Efficiency Database (HEED) to monitor progress on energy efficiency interventions more generally.

6.9 We are also considering the possibility of further research on the hard to reach groups (including the over 80s and elderly people in private tenure) in terms of experiences of fuel poverty, and on the relationship of internal temperature to health and to the nature of the fuel poverty experience, and comments on these proposals are invited.

Developing information at a local level

6.10 It is also important to supplement Scottish House Condition Survey data with good local information. To be of maximum benefit, it is valuable if local data is comparable with national data. To facilitate this process, we are ensuring that the 2002 Scottish House Condition Survey data can be broken down to local authority level wherever possible (although there are limits to the extent to which this can be achieved for all variables). In addition, staff from Communities Scotland are able to advise local authorities and others on the design of local surveys before they make decisions about format.

6.11 The work carried out by local authorities on their HECA responsibilities and on their local housing strategies is another important source of local information about fuel poverty. In paragraph 6.29 below, we explain the work that will be undertaken to provide guidance for local authorities on fuel poverty aspects of their local housing strategies, and this will include advice on monitoring and information issues. The guidance will also advise on co-ordination of HECA responsibilities and fuel poverty considerations, including the value of further disaggregation of the information provided to the Scottish Executive in HECA reports.

To take forward our commitment to developing knowledge and monitoring change we will:

  • Set ourselves the goal of improving the extent to which changes in fuel poverty levels can be monitored;
  • Explore the feasibility of changes to the arrangements for the Scottish House Condition Survey in order to obtain more regular information about fuel poverty;
  • Develop alternative sources of reliable and valid data about fuel poverty in order to reduce reliance on the Scottish House Condition Survey and using these to develop a model to forecast the impact of changes in variables such as income, price and energy efficiency;
  • Take forward additional research on fuel poverty issues, including a health impact assessment of programmes such as Warm Deal and the Central Heating Programme, and explore the feasibility of research on hard to reach groups and internal ambient temperature issues;
  • Provide advice on local fuel poverty surveys;
  • Provide local authorities with guidance on local monitoring and information issues in respect of fuel poverty and HECA responsibilities within the guidance on local housing strategies.

Raising awareness of fuel poverty issues

6.12 Tackling fuel poverty can be a complicated process, and it depends on action by a number of different organisations and groups, including consumers themselves. Raising awareness about fuel poverty issues and the way they can be tackled is therefore a key part of our fuel poverty strategy.

Awareness raising for health care providers and front line housing staff

Transco, the national pipeline operator, has developed awareness training for primary health care providers and front line housing staff as part of its Affordable Warmth programme. The aim of the training is to help them to identify and address fuel poverty and its knock-on effects through better understanding of the causes and of the early warning signs.

For primary health care staff, energy awareness courses have been developed in association with Energy Action Scotland. The courses are approved by the Royal College of Nursing and Midwifery and are linked to Energy Advice Projects that involve social landlords and energy efficiency advice providers. To date, 200 trainees have completed the course.

To address awareness issues amongst front line housing providers, Transco worked with Lothian and Edinburgh Environmental Partnership to develop a training needs questionnaire which was issued to Edinburgh City Council housing staff. On the basis of the responses received, an Intermediate Energy Awareness Manual was developed and subsequently launched throughout Scotland. The manual has been endorsed by CoSLA and has been cited as an example of best practice across the UK.

6.13 There are a number of stakeholders involved in the process of raising awareness about fuel poverty issues, including statutory organisations (such as Energywatch and the Energy Saving Trust) voluntary and charitable organisations, and energy companies. We welcome, and will continue to support this work.

6.14 In particular, the Energy Saving Trust's Energy Advice Centres play an important part in raising awareness of fuel poverty issues amongst stakeholder groups. Centres have a high local profile and staff working within them have important local knowledge about energy issues within the local area. Local authority-based energy advice units, such as those operating in West Lothian, Aberdeen, Renfrewshire and Glasgow are also valuable resources.

To take forward our commitment to raising awareness about fuel poverty we will:

  • Continue to support the work of statutory, voluntary, charitable and private sector organisations in raising awareness of fuel poverty issues.

Improving the housing stock

6.15 Chapter 5 set out further details of a number of programmes that we have in place to promote improvements to the housing stock in Scotland, including New Housing Partnerships, the Warm Deal, and the Central Heating Programme. We will continue to invest in these initiatives in order to reach the milestones and targets that have been set. The initiatives have had valuable knock-on effects in relation to increasing the market for skilled installation workers, and we will continue to work to address any skills shortage issues that may arise.

6.16 When further information about the extent of fuel poverty in Scotland becomes available, we expect to see improvements in the rate of fuel poverty amongst householder living in social rented housing. However tackling fuel poverty amongst owner-occupied and private renters remains a major challenge. We have established the Housing Improvement Task Force, which is examining issues relating to the quality of housing in the owner-occupied and private rented sector.

6.17 The Fuel Poverty Advisory Group has identified issues for the Housing Improvement Task Force to consider and will consider the implications for fuel poverty of the recommendations that the Housing Improvement Task Force makes. In addition, we intend to set in train an additional piece of work to examine how effective interventions might be developed to reduce the number of owner-occupiers and private renters in fuel poverty.

6.18 Under the terms of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 and the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995, local authorities have important strategic responsibilities in relation to housing improvement. We will continue to support local authorities in the delivery of these responsibilities, and will look at how interventions can be made more effective by putting together guidance on fuel poverty and HECA issues for local authority local housing strategy development.

To take forward our commitment to improving Scotland's housing stock in order to tackle fuel poverty we will:

  • Continue to invest in programmes to promote improvements to the housing stock in Scotland, including New Housing Partnerships, Warm Deal, and the Central Heating programme;
  • Ask the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group to provide the Housing Improvement Task Force with advice on the fuel poverty issues that it might want to examine;
  • Consider the recommendations made by the Housing Improvement Task Force;
  • Explore how effective interventions might be developed to reduce the number of owner-occupiers and private renters in fuel poverty;
  • Support local authorities in their strategic responsibilities in relation to housing improvement, and provide guidance on how interventions might be made more effective.

Promoting greater energy efficiency

6.19 Energy efficiency of dwellings is a key factor contributing to fuel poverty, and tackling energy efficiency is an important part of our strategy. We have set out further details of the energy efficiency measures that we have in place at the moment in Chapter 5 and we will continue to support and develop these approaches.

6.20 The UK Government's Performance and Innovation Unit has recently completed its Energy Review. The review concluded that improving energy efficiency (including domestic energy efficiency) is broadly consistent with all the Government's major objectives for energy policy, but that an increase in the pace of improvement is likely to be needed in order to achieve a low carbon energy system.

6.21 The Scottish Executive is currently considering setting a target for the improvement of domestic energy efficiency in Scotland. It would be possible to develop such a target, perhaps relating to a target improvement in average NHER ratings across Scotland, or with a particular focus on improving NHER ratings at the lower end of the scale.

6.22 The enforcement and implementation of building regulations plays an important part in improving energy efficiency. The Sixth Amendment to the Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations 1990, which is effective from March 2002, aims to improve the energy efficiency of new dwellings by approximately 25%. For a typical dwelling, this equates to a saving on fuel costs of about 125 per annum. In changing the use of other buildings to dwellings, developers will have to either upgrade the thermal insulation to the external building fabric or install energy efficient boilers. These standards apply to social rented sector dwellings as well as private sector dwellings and will benefit the new occupants, especially those in fuel poverty.

6.23 There is a review of the Scottish Building Control System underway. The consultation paper recommends that a national body audits and monitors the performance of local authorities regarding their competence in fulfilling their building control duties.

6.24 Many opportunities for improving energy efficiency are already cost effective, although there may be barriers to their adoption (such as inadequate contractual relationships with builders, and the nature of tenancy arrangements). However, in order to ensure that improvements in energy efficiency are sustained, it is important for us to continue to invest in and to support innovation in technology, and we are committed to working with the UK government and with energy companies to do this.

6.25 One aspect of this is the use of renewable energy supplies. The Performance and Innovation Unit's Energy Review report concludes that renewables present the most flexible supply option in terms of carbon reduction potential and compatibility with other goals. Renewables are, therefore, likely to make a substantial contribution to the low carbon programme in the UK. The report concludes that targets should be set for the supply of electricity from renewables, and the UK government will be considering this recommendation. We will also need to consider the implications for our strategy on fuel poverty of a commitment to greater use of renewables.

To take forward our commitment to promoting greater energy efficiency we will:

  • Explore the feasibility of a target relating to domestic energy efficiency in Scotland;
  • Implement amendments to the Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations 1990 which aim to improve the energy efficiency of new dwellings by approximately 25%;
  • Continue to support innovation in the development of new technology to promote greater energy efficiency and encourage private sector take-up of insulation measures.

Working in partnership to tackle fuel poverty

6.26 The complex nature of fuel poverty and its causes is one important reason why no single agency can tackle the problem alone. We are committed to working with a range of partner organisations in order to meet our fuel poverty targets and to facilitating partnership working at a local level.

Working in partnership at a national level

6.27 The UK government has important responsibilities for income measures, for energy market issues, and for some aspects of the energy efficiency agenda. If we are to meet our targets for eradicating fuel poverty, then it will be important that we achieve good co-ordination at a UK level and we will continue to work with the UK government to co-ordinate the delivery of our fuel poverty strategies. We will also continue to work with organisations with a national remit in relation to fuel poverty, such as the energy companies and energywatch (for example in investigating how actions under Energy Efficiency Commitments might best be integrated with other initiatives).

Working in partnership at a local level

6.28 There is a range of organisations working in the fuel poverty arena, and local co-ordination will be one of the keys to success. Local authorities are key players will develop strategies for dealing with fuel poverty at a local level as part of their work on Local Housing Strategies. These will have important links to the community planning process, and through this mechanism, local authorities will work to ensure that all relevant local players are involved.

6.29 We have asked the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group to set up a working group to examine the guidance on fuel poverty issues that local authorities should receive as part of the wider guidance on local housing strategies. This guidance is likely to cover issues such as best practice approaches, the importance of monitoring and information at a local level, and ways of bringing together responsibilities under HECA and responsibilities for tackling fuel poverty.

6.30 As part of their work on tackling fuel poverty, it will be important for local authorities to work with other players in the field. There are a number of examples of innovative local initiatives involving local authorities, other registered social landlords, the private and voluntary sectors such as the Community Energy Partnerships being tested in Dundee and Lanarkshire. The causes of, and solutions to, fuel poverty are many and diverse; the Executive is keen to find ways in which routes out of fuel poverty can be simplified. Local initiatives, such as those being piloted in Dundee and Lanarkshire, are a key way of the effective delivery of measures aimed at tackling fuel poverty. We will continue to support and encourage the development of such approaches. We will also give consideration to the proposal made by some organisations that the Scottish Executive should develop a national referral system, perhaps through a dedicated phoneline to put people in contact with local organisations working to tackle fuel poverty.

The Dundee Community Energy Partnership

Dundee City Council, Transco and Scottish and Southern Energy are working together to pilot an approach that will help the City Council meet its requirements for tackling fuel poverty under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. The Dundee Community Energy Partnership involves the development of a structured approach to tackling fuel poverty, based on a partnership working model under which resources are pooled.

Surveys will be undertaken of all homes in defined geographical areas in Dundee, and a database set up to hold the information that is obtained from those surveys. Plans will be prepared to establish a new energy advice centre within Dundee, which will include consideration of the needs of small businesses.

At this stage in the partnership, training for local people has been a major focus. Trainees from New Deal groups are given the training required to enable them to undertake energy surveys and to give consumers energy advice. In addition, higher level skills training is being provided to engineers recently made redundant from the ship industry in Fife and from factories in Dundee to undertake installation work. Once survey work has been completed, the information will be potentially valuable to a range of organisations including registered social landlords, suppliers, installers, and health care providers.

The Scottish Executive is providing funding of 239,000 to support the project and the Energy Saving Trust is working with the partnership to develop best practice advice for use across Scotland.

The role of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group

6.31 In order to ensure that we continue to co-ordinate efforts to tackle fuel poverty at a national and local level, we will invite members of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group to continue their involvement during the course of the consultation period on this Statement. Once the final Statement has been published later this year, we will invite Advisory Group members to continue their involvement and this will include monitoring the impact of reserved matters on fuel poverty in Scotland.

To take forward our commitment to working in partnership to tackle fuel poverty we will:

  • Ensure that we continue to co-ordinate our efforts with those of the UK government on income and energy market issues and on aspects of energy efficiency measures;
  • Ensure that local authorities are considering fuel poverty issues as part of the development and implementation of their Local Housing Strategies, and providing guidance on how they can do this.
  • Support innovative approaches to local partnership working such as Community Energy Partnerships;
  • Invite members of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group to participate in a Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum on a continuing basis.

Addressing consumer information requirements and transparency issues

6.32 Earlier sections of this Statement have set out details of the importance of fuel price as a determinant of fuel poverty. We have also looked at the impact that opening up the domestic energy market has had in creating downward pressure on prices. The Regulator, (Ofgem), and the Gas and Electricity Consumer Council (energywatch) play a major part in protecting the interests of consumers within the market.

6.33 Ensuring transparency of information in relation to prices and tariffs is an important part of ensuring that people get best value for their money and that fuel poverty is minimised. We will explore the possibility of working with Ofgem and energywatch to undertake a piece of work to examine issues of the transparency of tariff information in Scotland, with the aim of enabling households in Scotland to make more informed choices in purchasing energy.

To take forward our commitment to addressing consumer information requirements and transparency issues we will:

  • Explore the feasibility of working with Ofgem and energywatch to undertake a piece of work to examine issues relating to the transparency of tariff information in Scotland.