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Energy efficiency fund to target fuel poverty in Scotland

Will the rest of the UK follow Scotland's example?

The Scottish government has announced a new fund that will aim to reduce fuel poverty in Scotland by providing local councils with money to boost energy efficiency.

The areas deemed most at risk of fuel poverty – which occurs when more than ten per cent of household income is spent on energy bills – are to benefit from £60 million in funding, Housing Minister Margaret Burgess revealed.

Initially, a total of £30 million will be allocated across the country’s 32 local authorities, with councils then able to bid for a share of a further £30 million, based on the requirements of residents.

The initiative will see councils work in tandem with energy suppliers, installation specialists, owner-occupiers and private landlords in a bid to ensure that those who can benefit the most from energy efficiency can do so.

This will include using the funding to install insulation and double glazing and educating locals about how to reduce their energy expenditure, Ms Burgess explained.

“We are determined to help householders to keep their homes warm wherever we can. Basic energy efficiency measures can make a huge difference to Scottish families who are struggling to make ends meet, allowing them to heat their homes more cost effectively,” she added.

“Today’s funding will see thousands of homes across Scotland receive new measures like solid wall insulation and double glazing. It will help to drive down the number of people living in fuel poverty.”

Good news all round

According to the Scottish government, the investment is not only good news for the country’s householders, but the economy, as it will help to generate new jobs and boost the need for support work.

“To help tackle fuel poverty we are actively working with councils and energy companies to ensure that Scotland continues to get its fair share of funding for efficiency programmes like these,” Ms Burgess said.

The announcement follows the Welsh government’s announcement that ten councils across the nation will also receive funding to make 670 homes in the country warmer and more comfortable to live in.

Welsh Environment Minister John Griffiths announced that the household energy efficiency grants will total £4.4 million and revealed that work has already started on some schemes.

The initiative will see workmen install external wall insulation, energy efficient boilers and other measures in homes that are most in need of upgrades, with all improvements expected to be completed by the end of June.

Fit for the future

According to Mr Griffiths, a “continuing upward trend” in fuel prices means that it is more vital than ever to ensure all Welsh homes are “fit for the future”.

“We are committed to taking action that makes a real, sustainable difference to people across Wales. I am pleased that ten councils applied for funding and are now able to work with local communities to ensure homes are more comfortable and more affordable to heat,” he added.

The minister added that all projects receiving funding will use Welsh-based installers or those that have offices in the country.

With Wales and Scotland each unveiling measures to help people most at risk of fuel poverty, it remains to be seen whether the UK government will follow suit and open up funding to local councils to help those most at need.

At the moment, the coalition is investing its efforts into promoting the new Green Deal scheme, which provides homeowners with grants to boost the energy efficiency of their home, before paying back the cost of improvement work through future energy bills.

However, the scheme has received criticism from certain industry bodies, which claim that the most fuel poor households are unlikely to benefit.

Not the answer

Alan Milstein, chairman of the Residential Property Surveyors Association, said many consumers will find that taking on a green deal loan is not the most cost-effective mechanism to fund any green improvements to their property.

“With early repayment penalties and the uncertainty surrounding how having a green deal loan attached to your property will impact on its future saleability, for many homeowners it may be advisable to look at alternative ways to fund energy efficiency measures,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Ed Matthews, head of fuel poverty campaign group Energy Bill Revolution, declared that neither the Green Deal nor the Energy Company Obligation – which focuses on providing energy efficiency measures to those on low incomes and people living in ‘hard to treat’ properties – will stop fuel poverty from “rocketing” in the face of high gas prices.

Following the lead of the Scottish and Welsh governments and opening up access to funding for those most in need could help to solve the problem, he suggested.

“We call on the prime minister to use money from the carbon tax to super-insulate this country’s homes,” Mr Matthews said.

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