The Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel Annual Report March 2023 – April 2024

We’re pleased to publish our first annual report. As this is our first annual report, we have set out the work we have done since our appointment in January 2022. We reflect on the significant increase in fuel poverty rates, from 24.6% in 2019 to 31% in 2022, driven by the energy crisis and the wider cost of living crisis, and the impact these have had on those suffering and entering fuel poverty. This is the context which has dictated and shaped our work since we were appointed.

The Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel Annual Report 2023-2024.pdf

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Our Work since appointment to March 2024


Actions to alleviate the impact of energy prices (September 2022)

Shortly after our initial engagement with Scottish Ministers, and with a fuel poverty rate then running at 35% in Scotland[15], we provided them with initial advice (October 2022) setting out eleven recommendations on actions which could be taken in response to escalating energy prices and the detrimental effect these are having on those suffering fuel poverty. We have continued to advocate for these recommendations – developing them further over the past 18 months. Our recommendations coalesced under four themes:

  1. Optimising Advice Agencies’ delivery to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, and other cost of living challenges, on households.
  2. Protecting those suffering fuel poverty, and those at risk of entering fuel poverty, from its long-term effects.
  3. Continuing to advocate for Government funding and policy change to mitigate the escalating disparity between incomes and energy prices.
  4. Effective monitoring and evaluating the Fuel Poverty Strategy.

We also offered our views on the Warmer Homes Eligibility Criteria for 2023–2024 – this led to the criteria being broadened to capture those experiencing fuel poverty but not necessarily in receipt of passport benefits. And we advised Scottish Government policy makers on bringing a fuel poverty lens to energy strategy and just transition planning and to the Heat in Buildings Strategy and Bill proposals. We have also advised on the newly devolved Pension Age Winter Heating Payment – recommending a progressive Scottish replacement for the Winter Fuel Payment to provide more targeted support for the fuel poor.


Reflections on “Tackling Fuel Poverty in Scotland– a strategic approach” (published in September 2023)

Responding to a Scottish Government request to offer advice on their fuel poverty strategy, we set out a series of recommendations (building on our initial advice to Ministers) on how the fuel poverty strategy could be updated to respond to the significant increase in fuel poverty rates (triggered by the energy crisis), as well as being delivered and monitored. Identified priority areas for action were to:

  1. Focus on improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s housing stock through improved planning and accelerated investment.
  2. Emphasise the structural importance of advice and advocacy in tackling fuel poverty.
  3. Emphasise the key role in the short to medium term of the Fuel Insecurity Fund, and other direct measures, to help with energy costs and managing energy debt.
  4. Develop a stronger focus on the opportunities to influence the UK Government energy market reforms in the interests of low income and vulnerable households.
  5. Develop a stronger focus on improving health outcomes for those suffering fuel poverty.
  6. Explore the value in building on the Scottish Government’s Energy Summits to create effective cross-sector collaboration.

In our scrutiny capacity, we have also supported the Scottish Government in developing their initial monitoring and evaluation framework for the fuel poverty strategy.

Consequences of the 2024-2025 Scottish budget for progress on the fuel poverty targets

We have provided comments to the Scottish Government on the challenges of the April 2024-March 2025 budget settlement for progressing Scotland’s fuel poverty targets and the need to protect the vulnerable through both short-term crises support and secure the vulnerable from fuel poverty.


Flexible Tariff Discount

We have consistently sought to promote the view that fuel poverty is not inevitable. We have worked to influence the UK Government on the efficacy of a flexible tariff discount to close the fuel poverty gap (that is the gap between a fuel poor household’s income and the additional money needed to lift it out of fuel poverty). We have shared our thinking and rationale with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and provided evidence to the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee. A flexible tariff discount, as we – along with many others – have argued, can shield and protect those in fuel poverty in the short, medium and long term. We have advocated for a discount that closes the fuel poverty gap, spending money wisely where it will have the greatest impact and using targeting to drive greatest outcomes.

Reform of standing charges

We have also engaged with Ofgem – advocating for a fairer approach to standing charges which prioritises changes to benefit the most vulnerable consumers and those at risk of fuel poverty. Furthermore, we have highlighted regulatory breaches impacting those vulnerable to fuel poverty, for example, when we heard during engagement with the housing sector of breaches in supplying energy supply to new and existing social housing.


We have contributed to building the fuel poverty evidence base across Scotland and it has informed all of our advice and scrutiny work.

We have done this through our engagement with the voice of lived experience, specifically through meeting and listening to the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s Panel of Experts (with lived experience of fuel poverty) and with those who have used the advisory and housing services we have engaged with, therefore hearing either directly from people living in fuel poverty themselves or from those who help them.

We have also built our stakeholder network through evidence sessions across the advice, housing and energy sectors, with national and local governments, Consumer Scotland, Ofgem and the Energy Ombudsman, and with England’s Committee on Fuel Poverty.

We have participated in Scottish Ministers’ Energy and Poverty summits, as well as Ministerial Vulnerable Energy Consumers and Rural Poverty Consumers working groups[16].

We have cemented this stakeholder engagement through participating and attending the Energy Action Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Association conferences. And, importantly, we believe that holding some of our meetings outside the central belt (Aberdeen and Inverness to date) help us to explore and further understand regional experiences of fuel poverty and potential place-based solutions.

We have communicated our work on our website (launched in March 2023) and via media engagement and newsletters.


Working in partnership with the academics, we have commissioned the University of Edinburgh to undertake two pieces of fuel poverty research. The research areas and key findings are:

A systematic review of the unintended consequences of decarbonisation technologies for fuel poverty outcomes – March 2024. The findings of this review showed that:

  1. Fuel poverty rates are on the rise, with rising household energy costs exacerbating the cost of living in the UK, disproportionately affecting vulnerable households, potentially worsening their health and overall quality of life.
  2. Groups with intersecting demographics at risk of fuel poverty need to be given greater attention, for example minority ethnic households, students, low-income renters, disabled people, and those living in rural and off-grid housing.
  3. Four key technologies are key to domestic decarbonisation: heat pumps, hydrogen, heat networks and insulation. Of these, little mention is made of what unintended consequences they could have for fuel poverty.
  4. The primary unintended consequence found is the unaffordability of decarbonisation technologies for at risk groups, who are likely to already be on low-incomes.
  5. Home decarbonisation technologies come with the opportunity to decrease fuel poverty while contributing to net zero if implemented effectively with supportive government schemes.
  6. Several existing schemes and grants are inaccessible to the fuel poor living in Scotland due to closure or their limited availability outside England.

Research on energy service rationing in Scotland: the factors which impact rationing, the groups more likely to be affected and what cross-sectoral activity could help to tackle the problems identified – August 2023. The research findings were that:

  1. The groups more likely to undertake self-rationing behaviours, include:
  • the elderly
  • single occupant households
  • families with two or more children
  • households with no central heating
  • households with average incomes affected by rapid increases in the cost-of-living
  • those on low or precarious incomes and not in receipt of benefits.
  1. Self-rationing is perceived as more prevalent amongst rural households, affecting those without mains gas supplies who are often reliant on bulk fuel deliveries, but also those on pre-payment meters, which exist in households across the urban-rural divide.
  2. Long-term, consistently high, volatile, or rising energy prices are seen to increase the likelihood of energy service rationing, increasing demands for additional financial support and demand for referrals to energy advice services, with implications for staffing levels.
  3. Self-rationing carries implications for mental and physical health (and follow on pressures on the National Health Service) and restricted educational access and attainment, decreases in building quality, increase energy debt, leading to poor occupant safety, and increasing pressures on supporting services.


We have worked with the Scottish Government to produce our Framework Agreement which sets how we and the Scottish Government will work together, and the key roles and responsibilities of the Panel, our Secretariat, the Accountable Officer; Scottish Ministers; and the Scottish Government Portfolio Accountable Officer. As well as our scrutiny, advisory and collaborative roles, the Framework Agreement also covers corporate roles such as financial and risk management. [Our financial statement for the first full year of our operation – March 2023- April 2024 – is set out in Annex A].  Our Framework Agreement with the Scottish Government, published in March 2024, can be viewed – here. One of our responsibilities under this Framework Agreement is to publish an annual report. This is our first annual report and covers the period since our appointment. It is also our first full year of activities since our Secretariat was appointed.

Looking forward to the next strategic and work planning period, we have developed and published our Strategic plan for April 2024 to March 2027 and our Workplan for April 2024 to March 2025.


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