Publication - Minutes

Scottish Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum minutes: December 2018

Published: 2 Jul 2019

Minutes of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum held in December 2018.

Published:
2 Jul 2019
Scottish Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum minutes: December 2018

  

Attendees and apologies

Norrie Kerr

NK

Energy Action Scotland;

Deputy Chair, Advisory Panel &Partnership Forum

Jim Eadie

JE

Age Scotland

John Dickie

JD

Child Poverty Action Group

Emma Grant McColm

EGM

Citizens Advice Scotland

Susan Johnston

SJ

Department for Work & Pensions, UK Government

Laura McGadie (deputising)

LM

Energy Saving Trust

Dan Alchin (deputising)

DA

Energy UK

Lori McElroy

LM

Existing Homes Alliance

George Dodds

GD

NHS Health Scotland

Simon O’Loughlin

SO

Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks

Mike Campbell

MC

Scottish Association of Landlords

Kendal Adams

KA

ScottishPower Energy Networks

Barbara Whiting

BW

SGN

Stephen Cunningham

SC

SHEEN

Lisa Glass

LG

Shelter

Heather Watts

HW

Scottish Power

Brian Scott

BS

The Poverty Truth Commission

Stewart Wilson

SW

Tighean Innse Gall

Saskia Kearns SK Secretariat, Advisory Panel & Partnership Forum
Ann McKenzie AMcK Fuel Poverty Policy Lead
Sharon McGuire SM Fuel Poverty Policy
Ailie Clarkson AC Communities Analysis Division
Esther Laird EL Communities Analysis Division
Gareth Fenney GF Energy Efficient Scotland
Neil Ritchie NR Public Energy Company

 

Apologies

Ann Loughrey

AL

Chair, Advisory Panel & Partnership Forum

Kate Morrison

ND

COSLA (secondment)

Kelly Greer

KG

Association for the Conservation of Energy

Alexander Anderson

AA

Centrica Plc.

Mike Thornton

MT

Energy Saving Trust

Lawrence Slade

LS

Energy UK

Ryan McFadden

RM

OFGEM

Ann McVie

AMcV

Scotland’s Social Security Agency

Linsey Restrick

LR

Scottish & Southern Energy

Sarah Boyack

SB

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

Peter Kelly

PK

The Poverty Alliance

Items and actions

1.  Welcome (Chair)

 NK welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the Partnership Forum, and in recognition of a number of new attendees deputising on behalf of standing Member representatives, invited everyone to provide a short introduction to themselves and their respective organisation.

a.   Apologies

  • As noted above. 

b. Minute of previous meeting – draft to be approved (Paper 1) 

  • No comments – Members approved draft as circulated.  NK indicated a summary note would be published online in due course.

c. Conflict of Interests – any to declare 

  • None.

  2. Strategic Policy Developments (Paper 2)

  1. Overview of progress to date 
  • NK referred Members to Paper 2 and invited any questions / points of clarification.  None indicated.  

Fuel Poverty Strategy – Advisory Panel Work-Plan Activity (Chair) 

  • NK provided a brief high-level overview of work committed to and underway by the Advisory Panel to date – this included reference to development of advice on the draft Outcomes Framework to accompany the final Fuel Poverty Strategy and Fuel Poverty Bill. 
  • NK also indicated that the Advisory Panel had agreed at its fifth meeting to collaboratively draft a Year 1 Progress Report to be submitted to Ministers, as per the group’s Terms of Reference.  The report would include a review of progress made and a forward look to indicate what Members feel should be considered or taken forward.  

Energy Efficient Scotland (SG)

GF provided an overview of progress to date under Energy Efficient Scotland since the previous update to the Partnership Forum in June.  This summary touched on the following points:

  • Consultations conducted – responses in relation to the programme’s Route Map (published May 2018) showed general agreement with the long term energy efficiency standards proposed, but there was mixed responses in relation to the timescales applied.  Responses also considered supply chain constraints, and whether or not exemptions to achieving proposed EPC targets would be applied e.g. for pre-1919 properties or those located in rural areas.  GF indicated that work was already underway to define what is meant by “technically feasible”.  Responses to the consultation on Energy Efficiency Standards for Social Housing (EESSH) showed general support for the over EPC target of Band B by 2032.  However there is concern again related to the technical feasibility of achieving this for pre-1919 and rural properties.  Other concerns indicated included: diminishing returns on investment; and technical exemptions.  In relation to Local Housing Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES) proposals there was general support. 
  • Ministerial Statement to Parliament – GF highlighted that in his address to Parliament in November, the Minister for Energy, Connectivity & the Islands recognised that there was a difference of opinion regarding the 2040 target date set under Energy Efficient Scotland and that there would therefore be a further consultation on how the programme might move faster, to be published in January 2019.  GF indicated that this consultation would set out the risks associated with increasing the pace of delivery, including: supply chain capacity issues, public attitudes, and the inability to deliver through a phased approached that would start with an enabling phase for owner occupiers.  Further information would be provided in the consultation regarding associated legislation – specifically, a consultation concerning the Private Rented Sector would be published early 2019.  A consultation on off-gas grid low carbon heat would also be published in due course. 

   b. Reflections – points of clarification / comments (Chair) 

NK reminded Members that the Minister for Local Government, Housing & Planning undertook a range of engagements as part of his Summer Tour where discussions touched on many of the issues summarised by GF.  The Minister is also due to give evidence on the Fuel Poverty Bill to the Local Government & Communities Committee on 19 December, and that it is likely the Minister will emphasise many of the ambitions set out.

NK invited any wider comments or questions from the floor – these included:

  • GD highlighted that any further demands of local authorities was only adding to the current resource constraints they faced, and that officials should be in discussions with COSLA to develop an understanding of next steps.  SC added that local authority funding was continuing to reduce, and that addressing issues such as poor energy efficiency isn’t helped when EPC assessments are conducted in error.  SC indicated that in many cases local authorities were opting to demolish difficult to retrofit properties.  NK highlighted that the Scottish Government had commissioned a review of EPCs and that this will likely publish soon.
  • BW indicated that SGN is engaging with stakeholders on how best to use relevant organisation’s criteria to inform decarbonisation pathways of the gas grid – SGN would be happy to provide updates on this work moving forward, and are already in contact with relevant officials.
  • BS asked whether consideration had been given to the end user and how much financial savings could be realised for households where properties are brought up to an EPC Band D, as proposed to be achieved by 2025.  GF agreed to look into this and provide relevant figures.  NK commented that it is was important to recognise the final impact of all this work on households, and that in some instances for those in fuel poverty the benefits may not always be financial but could also relate to e.g. levels of overall comfort in their home.  This requires an understanding of what is meant by a “good outcome”.
  • LG sought clarification on when a consultation on PRS regulations would be published – GF indicated it would not be January, but sometime in 2019.
  • JD asked what measures were in place under Energy Efficient Scotland to ensure prioritisation of vulnerable groups including young people / children, as part of demonstrating a cross-government approach.  GF responded indicating that Energy Efficient Scotland is the delivery mechanism to remove poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty, and that it will build on existing programmes such as Warmer Homes Scotland and Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland that are delivered based on an assessment of need. This ensures those in most need are prioritised first – this aligns with the approach set out in the draft Fuel Poverty Strategy.  AMcK reminded Members the draft strategy is a holding document and that the final strategy, which will focus on addressing all four drivers of fuel poverty as well as building a cross-government collaborative approach, will be published within one year of Section 3 of the Fuel Poverty Bill being enacted.  NK added that given it is a draft strategy only, now is the opportunity for links outlined to be strengthened – it was proposed that a future meeting of the Partnership Forum may be used for Members to review the draft strategy on this basis.  Focus could be given to understanding and recommending how partnerships to deliver the draft strategy could be improved.
  • JE commented that achieving EPC Band C by 2030 for fuel poor households will require considerable change at an individual level as well as significant resource investment by government to support these households. JE asked what work had been done to date to understand the resource implications of the Energy Efficient Scotland targets. GF summarised at a high level that estimates indicated a total cost of around £12 billion, with around £6-8 billion of this required specifically for domestic property improvements to EPC Band C. Ministers are committed to continue to support those in fuel poverty, but there will be an expectation that those that can self-fund do so. JE indicated that older households are cash poor and so these proposals may present a challenge to these homes.  GF referred to the current equity loans scheme pilot being run under Energy Efficient Scotland whereby households can borrow up to £40,000 for energy efficiency improvements and general property condition improvements.  GF summarised that financial options to spread the burden of energy efficiency improvements on households was being considered, and that the programme would be delivered in first through encouragement and then through mandating upgrades from 2030.  SW fed in that without a loan mechanism in place it is difficult for this sort of work to be achieved.
  • GD argued that all of this work should sit in the broader context of work to reduce overall inequalities in society – Energy Efficient Scotland is about mitigating the negatives of inequalities experienced by households.
  • SC suggested that EPC Bands do not matter for older households as fuel bills will always be higher for this group due to the longer period of time spent in the property.  SC proposed that a specific, lower price cap should be introduced for older households, in addition to the new Ofgem price cap. NK reminded Members that in the past many suppliers had social tariffs (discount or price cap) for vulnerable customers. The question is where the responsibility for things such as the fabric of a property and the number and type of people who live in it lies.
  • BS asked whether there was an obligation for owner occupiers who lived in mixed tenure properties to commit to energy efficiency improvements where the other tenures within the building have identified an opportunity. GF responded clarifying that in theory by 2040, subject to Ministers going ahead with the proposals set out for Energy Efficient Scotland, then yes this would be the case. Currently area based programmes help in addressing this issue. BS voiced a concern that for some owner occupiers who took advantage of the ‘right to buy’ scheme in the past they may be cash poor and requiring them to invest in energy efficiency improvements could put them in poverty/fuel poverty. SC gave an example of how this is avoided by West Lothian Council – loans are offered to owner occupiers, but where they are unable to accept an agreement is put in place for the local authority to take back the value of energy efficiency investments at the point of sale of the property.  West Lothian Council also minimise the costs incurred and charged to the owner occupier where possible, for example by only charging for the cost of new materials required. NK suggested this sort of approach needed to be standardised across all local authorities.  LM agreed.  SC indicated the approach has been communicated to all of SHEEN’s members but only some have adopted it to date.  NK recognised that Scottish Government must handle any sort of discussions like this with local authorities with care as they cannot be seen to be mandating local authorities to take a particular action. Having said this, NK highlighted that there is a precedence for this sort of approach as in the past there was a scheme operating in Scotland whereby if all properties in a target area were in receipt of the ‘right’ welfare benefits then retrofit work to these properties would be done free of charge to the residents, on the basis that it was of ‘social value / good’ to do so. 

   c. Public Energy Company & Energy Consumer Action Plan (SG)

Presentation  

NR and KD provided a presentation on progress to date in developing a public owned energy company, and an Energy Consumer Action Plan.  As part of this update, the following points were made:

  •    Delivering on price factors will not be the only priority for the public energy company – issues such as customer service quality will be important.
  •    A phased approach to delivery of a public energy company by the end of the current Parliament (2021) will be adopted – in the short term a white label model will be introduced.  Broader issues such as energy generation and supply chain expansion will then be considered as part of longer term ambitions.
  •    In response to those who argue that the Ofgem energy price cap has now been introduced and so, if successful, would remove the need for a public energy company, the Scottish Government argues that it cannot wait until 2021 to understand the impacts of the price cap before it takes action.
  •    A consultation on an outline business case for the public energy company will publish in 2019.
  •    A further stakeholder Roundtable event on the public energy company will be held on 16 January that Members are welcome to attend.
  •    Considering the consumer throughout policy development is a focus of Scottish Government Consumers & Competition Unit – the Energy Consumer Action Plan forms part of this work.  It will provide clarity of understanding of the impact of energy policies on the end user, and will prioritise a focus on the disengaged and vulnerable groups.  This work will provide a framework moving forward for considering how best to engage the consumer in policy processes.
  •    The Energy Consumer Action Plan will publish in Spring 2019; a Consumer Advice Group and internal government working group have been set up to support its development and ensure connections across programmes are being made.

 Open Floor Discussion 

  • JE asked for clarification of timescales around publication of the consultation on the public energy company – NR indicated that the contract for developing an outlined business case was awarded to consultants on 1 November, and the draft report is due to officials by the end of March next year.  The consultation will publish on the back of this in Spring 2019. 
  • SJ asked how the Consumers & Competition Unit plan on engaging the disengaged in development of the Energy Consumer Action Plan.  KD indicated that existing relations with CAS would be built on and that other consumer models already in place would be explored e.g. Scottish Water, Social Security.  DA cautioned that in the energy consumer market most concerns come down to issues of price.  KD recognised the challenge this posed for engaging consumers at a deeper level, which is required as part of tackling climate change and meeting low carbon targets as well.  One option might be to explore how to use those who are already engaged in the energy market to support those in fuel poverty [who may be less engaged].  NR highlighted that a local authority stakeholder event on the public energy company had been held recently and that consumer engagement and education was something that would be focused on moving forward.  Existing communication channels would be used in this regard.  LG argued that it would be important to build trust with consumers.  LM commented that the public energy company must be made attractive so that it offers the most efficient and effective option available for consumers.  NR recognised that the public sector tends to favour well with consumers on issues of trust.  LM offered for Existing Homes Alliance and/or Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to be brought into the discussion to support engagement work via housing association tenant contacts and energy advisor networks.
  • BS asked about the possibility for promoting a standardisation of tariffs irrespective of customer payment methods used, in order to remove the premium charged to those on prepayment meters.  BS further advised that the public energy company should make use of and exploit its Scottish connections in order to promote engagement with the Scottish market.  In particular, emphasis should be placed on the way in which it would generate returns that are invested back into local Scottish communities. 
  • SW proposed the need for a national tariff switching platform for consumers to be introduced to ensure people can access the right and all available information easily.  NR suggested that one of the outcomes of a public energy company might simply be to encourage / enable a change in mind set amongst consumers to consider switching, even if they opt to switch to another supplier that is not the public energy company.  NK commented that those in fuel poverty tend to be “sticky” energy consumers – they are less likely to switch supplier, either because they do not have access to information or do not trust the market.  This means that the Big 6 energy suppliers tend to end up carrying a larger proportion of “difficult to serve” consumers e.g. those on the Priority Services Register.  This incurs higher costs to those suppliers to cater to their existing consumer base.  KA reminded Members that network operators are already targeting awareness campaigns towards vulnerable groups, via third party organisations, but that this is not generally well known or recognised.  The retail model is not the only one to consider – network operators are active in this work too.  SO agreed – in particular, Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks conducts single site visits that incorporate energy service activities, Priority Service Register considerations, and water poverty issues.  BW added that SGN also work very collaboratively to support vulnerable consumers.  KD indicated she is keen to explore data sharing issues between organisations that could further facilitate this collaborative work.
  • SW asked whether consideration had been given to what implications there might be for access to ECO by the public energy company if the company became large enough that it became obligated to contribute under ECO?  Would this in any way prevent Scottish Government from also taking control over delivery of ECO in the future?  NR said it was likely that the public energy company would not breach the threshold to become obligated under ECO.  SJ asked how many staff it was likely to employ, but NR was unable to confirm at this time.  It would likely be a low number under a white label model (contract management), and officials would look to link in with work on the Energy Efficient Scotland national delivery mechanism. 

Actions for Follow Up: 

  • GF to provide financial investment figures on the total estimated costs of delivering on Energy Efficient Scotland ambitions to Secretariat, for circulation to the wider Members.
  • NR to provide progress update on current energy priorities outlined in the Scottish Energy Strategy – due for publication shortly – to Secretariat, for circulation to the wider Members in due course.
  • Members to notify the Secretariat if they are interested in attending the Public Energy Company Roundtable event on 16 January – details will be passed to NR for follow up contact.  

3.  Scottish House Condition Survey Annual Statistics 2017 – Review (SG) 

  1.       Presentation  
  • AC provided an overview of the new SHCS Annual Statistics for 2017, which published on 4 December.  Slides would be circulated. 

b. Open Floor Discussion 

Follow up questions on the statistics covered the following issues:

  •    Breakdown by age of those living in fuel poverty, by tenure type;
  •    Number of households using LPG as main energy fuel source;
  •    Levels of property disrepair as experienced by those living in fuel poverty versus not;
  •    Number of households who indicate they cannot afford to heat their home who are also in receipt of welfare benefits – particularly relevant given that energy prices tend to be just above inflation levels, but benefits levels have remained static;
  •    Calculation of the fuel prices used within the modelling;
  •    Opportunity to tweak existing questions within the survey, particular those that focus on relatively subjective elements – this is important to consider in order to ensure under the draft and final Fuel Poverty Strategy that the information being requested aligns with what is required to be monitored in delivering the strategy;
  •    Sample size used in the survey and composition;
  •    Causes of dampness as part of a wider narrative to describe statistics developed. 

Actions for Follow Up: 

  • Secretariat to circulate SHCS Annual Statistics 2017 presentation slides to Members.
  • Members to send any suggested amendments to existing questions within the SHCS to Secretariat for forwarding to government analysts for further consideration.  

  Forward Look 2019 – role and activities (Chair) 

  • NK invited Members to consider the Advisory Panel’s request for the Partnership Forum to accept the delegation of responsibility to monitor progress against the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and Rural Fuel Poverty Taskforce recommendations that were submitted to the Scottish Government in 2016.  The Partnership Forum would take ownership and lead on this work, keeping the Advisory Panel informed as appropriate.  NK indicated that to allow this to happen the Partnership Forum had the option to meet an additional second time per year in the Summer.
  • NK highlighted that the Advisory Panel’s Annual Report to Ministers will capture this work, and any progress made against those recommendations marked as RED RAG status i.e. those that are the responsibility of other organisations (not Scottish Government) to deliver.  NK indicated this report will not be for public consumption, and that it is likely the Minister will wish to come to the groups to discuss its content at a later date. 

Actions for follow up: 

  • Secretariat to circulate electronic copy of handout on the RED RAG status recommendations of the SWG & RFPTF to Members.
  • Members to consider the proposal for the Partnership Forum to take ownership over monitoring progress on the RED RAG status recommendations made by the SWG & RFPTF – to provide any comments on this to the Secretariat for passing to the Chair / Deputy Chair, no later than 11 January 2019.  

5. AOB 

Year 2 Meeting Schedule 

  • NK advised Members that indicative dates for Year 2 meeting schedule had now been issued, and a venue for the December 2019 meeting would be confirmed in due course. 

Energy Credit Summit 

  • NK provided a brief overview of the recent Energy Credit Summit hosted by Ms Christina McKelvie MSP in November – EGM indicated that if a follow up event was to be held (organised by CAS), Members would be invited to attend.  AMcK summarised the actions from this event noted on behalf of Ministers, which included: UK Government and Ofgem continuing to raise awareness of the initiative at a national level; no commitment made to hold another Energy Summit, as this work would be taken forward at a Scottish Government level via the Energy Consumer Action Plan; links were to be made between the scheme and Home Energy Scotland to ensure consumers are referred on to further wider support; and CAS committed to conduct a piece of research on the economic impacts of the energy credit scheme, within the next year as set out within its 2019 work-plan, to be discussed with Scottish Government.
  • NK commented that it is not clear where responsibility for emergency care provision of this nature sits – is it fair to require energy suppliers to respond to those at food banks requiring emergency energy credit if they are there as a result of having been sanctioned under the UK Government’s Universal Credit scheme? 
  • KA indicated that her organisation had made attempts to offer wrap around services through food banks but that they had been met with resistance at a local manager level within the food banks, due to competing priorities for service delivery.  NK recognised this is why it might be necessary to engage with people at a different time via wider support systems, not when they are at a point of crisis.
  • LG asked if the intention was for the scheme approach to be rolled out across all energy suppliers – EGM indicated that discussion to date had been limited to the Big 6 suppliers but the option was there to expand this.  JE said there was a role for the Partnership Forum to put pressure on suppliers to take up the approach, but NK reiterated his concern regarding where responsibility lies.
  • LG also highlighted that care needed to be taken in any roll out of the scheme that it does not duplicate existing support.  This may be a conversation between Shelter and CAS to have re crisis grants provision.
  • JD concluded that the overall question was why food banks were needed in the first place and that, in answering this, it suggested that interventions need to focus on supporting vulnerable groups before they reach the point where they feel they need to turn to food banks for support.  

Scottish Government Staff Changes 

  • AMcK advised Members that Saskia Kearns – current Secretariat – would be taking up a new post in government from 7 January 2019 and would no longer be working in the Fuel Poverty Policy Team.  Members were asked to send any further comments, or correspondence concerning the Advisory Panel or Partnership Forum to AMcK for the time being.
  • AMcK advised that she would also be moving post in due course (early 2019) and would no longer be working in the Fuel Poverty Team.
  • On behalf of Members, NK thanked both Saskia and Ann for their work in supporting the group to date. 

Actions for Follow Up: 

  • Members to send any further comments or thoughts on the future of energy credit schemes to the Secretariat for forwarding to the Chair / Deputy Chair and EMG (CAS) for further consideration.