No real change in fuel poverty in 2017

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

In 2017 the level of fuel poverty remained similar to 2016: 24.9% or 613,000 households were fuel poor, and 7.0% or 174,000 households were living in extreme fuel poverty. This compares to the 26.5% or 649,000 fuel poor households in 2016, with 7.5% or 183,000 households living in extreme fuel poverty.

Statistics on fuel poverty, energy efficiency, the condition of housing, the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) and other key descriptors of the occupied housing stock in Scotland have been released today by Scotland’s Chief Statistician. This publication provides the first release of information from the Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) for the year January to December 2017.

The results from the survey show overall fuel poverty remaining at similar levels from the previous year, but changes are evident in subgroups

  • While the overall fuel poverty rate in 2017 is similar to 2016, this follows a period of annual decreases between 2014 and 2016 and it is the lowest rate recorded by the survey since 2005/06.
  • Households in local authority housing saw an improvement in fuel poverty rates: 28% are estimated to be in fuel poverty, compared to 36% in 2016.
  • Households using gas as their primary heating fuel have continued to see improving fuel poverty rates in 2017. This is likely to be due, at least in part, to gas prices continuing to fall though not as steeply as in 2016. Consequently, fuel poverty rates fell in the last year for households living in urban areas, from 24% in 2016 to 21% in 2017, widening the gap when compared to rural areas (43%).
  • Those households using oil as the primary heating fuel saw the greatest increase in fuel poverty rates: 40% of these households are estimated to be in fuel poverty, compared to 26% in 2016. This follows a 24% increase in liquid fuel prices between 2016 and 2017. This is similar to estimated rates in 2014 when prices were even higher.
  • 63% of fuel poor households are also income poor, defined as having incomes above the poverty threshold (£313 per week before housing costs for a couple without children).  This is similar to 2016. 
  • Fuel poor households are more likely to report difficulties staying warm in winter. 22% of them say that their heating keeps them warm in winter "only sometimes" (15%) or "never" 6%), compared to 18% of all other households. The proportion for Scotland as a whole, 19%, is similar to 2016 rates. 7% of fuel poor households report that they cannot afford to heat their home, higher than the 4% of non-fuel poor households.

The survey shows that the long-term trend in the energy efficiency of the housing stock continues to improve:

  • In 2017, 42% of Scottish homes were in the highest energy efficiency bands, C or better, and half had an energy efficiency rating of 67 or higher (SAP 2012). This is a significant increase from 39% in 2016 and continues the trend of improvement since 2014, the first year in which data based on SAP 2012 was available.
  • In the last year, the share of properties built between 1945-1964 and post-82, in band C or better, increased by 6 percentage points to 37%, and 5 percentage points to 74% respectively.
  • Using SAP 2009 allows the longer-term trend to be explored and shows strong improvement in the energy efficiency profile of housing.  The share of the most energy efficient dwellings (rated C or better) increased from 24% in 2010 to 46% in 2017. In the same period, the proportion of properties in the lowest EPC bands (E, F or G) more than halved, reducing from 27% to 13%.
  • The share of homes with lofts insulated to 100 mm or more was 94% in 2017 which is similar to 2016. This represents an increase of 12 percentage points on 2010 levels.  30% of lofts had a high standard of insulation (300 mm or more), a similar level to 2016
  • Levels of wall insulation remained similar to 2016, with 18% of solid wall dwellings and 75% of cavity wall dwellings having insulation in 2016. However, the data demonstrates a long-term trend of improvement in wall insulation, with the proportion of insulated cavity walls increasing by 9 points and the proportion of insulated solid walls increasing by 7 percentage points since 2012. Wall insulation measures continue to be delivered under energy efficiency programmes such as ECO and the SHCS data suggests that this is having an impact, although sample size limitations mean the difference in the last year is not statistically significant.

Levels of disrepair, and other housing quality indicators remain stable at 2016 levels:

  • The level of disrepair was unchanged in 2017, with 68% of all dwellings having some degree of disrepair, however minor. Disrepair to critical elements stood at 50%, while 28% of dwellings had some instances of urgent disrepair, and in 5% of the housing stock some extensive disrepair was present. These also all similar to 2016.
  • Levels of damp and condensation improved slightly compared to 2016. Over 9 out of 10 properties (91%) were free from any damp or condensation, an increase from 89% in 2016.
  • The SHQS failure rate in the social sector was 37%, not allowing for abeyances and exemptions which are taken into account by the Scottish Housing Regulator. This has fallen from 60% in 2010.  26% of social homes did not meet the Energy Efficient criterion.
  • SHCS surveyors may not always be able to identify the presence of cavity wall insulation. The overall SHQS failure rate in the social sector would be 25% if it is assumed that all social dwellings have insulated cavity walls where this is technically feasible.
  • The majority of dwellings falling below the SHQS failed on a single criterion; this accounts for more than 9 out of 10 failures in the social sector.  For almost 8 out of 10 social homes which failed the SHQS this was due to falling short on a single one of the 55 elements making up the standard.
  • Compliance with the tolerable standard in 2017 remained similar to 2016: 1% (or 24,000) of all dwellings fell below the tolerable standard. This represents an improvement of 3 percentage points since 2012.
  • Overcrowding levels in Scotland remain unchanged: 3% of all households (66,000) were living in overcrowded accommodation in 2017.


The Scottish House Condition Survey is a sample survey, hence all figures are subject to a degree of uncertainty due to sampling variability. It is a two-part survey combining both an interview with occupants and a physical inspection of dwellings. The sample size in 2017 was 3,002 dwellings  where both an interview and a physical survey were conducted.

Local Authority tables giving breakdowns of key SHCS measures will be published in February 2019.  Local Authority estimates use combined data over the three year survey period (2015-2017), in order to obtain suitable sample sizes.

Statistics from the SHCS are used for a variety of purposes including:

  • To monitor changes in the condition of the Scottish housing stock.
  • To monitor changes in rates of fuel poverty and to provide evidence of the types of households vulnerable to fuel poverty.
  • To monitor commitments for all social sector landlords to ensure that all of their dwellings pass the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015.
  • To monitor commitments to improve the energy efficiency of the Scottish housing stock to contribute to the reduction of emissions as set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, 2009.
  • To monitor progress on Housing and Regeneration Outcome Indicators.
  • To support policy development on energy efficiency standards through Energy Efficient Scotland (EES); and help target programmes such as Home Energy Efficiency Programmes Scotland (HEEPS) and ECO on the most vulnerable households.

The Scottish Government introduced the Fuel Poverty (Strategy, Definition and Target) (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament on 27 June 2018. The data presented in this report is based on the current definition.

Further information on Housing and Regeneration statistics within Scotland.

National statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff.


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