The Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel - Workplan 2024-2025

This is the Panel’s workplan for 2024-2025.

The Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel Workplan – March 2024 – April 2025.pdf

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Our April 2024 to March 2025 workplan sets out key themes which we intend to explore during this year. We will use the output from this work to offer reflections and advice to enable the Scottish Government, and others, to make tactical responses to fuel poverty and improve the foundations for their strategic approach to eradicating fuel poverty.

The four themes we will be exploring are:

  1.  understanding funding and how it’s targeted to mitigate fuel poverty.
  2.  the systemic impact of rural and remote fuel poverty.
  3.  heat network models and what works for those in fuel poverty.
  4. opportunities to relieve and prevent fuel poverty through a public health lens.

We will also work on emerging priority fuel poverty issues as well as other priorities, such as our statutory scrutiny responsibilities and governance work.

1. Mapping the fuel poverty funding landscape

The fuel poverty funding landscape, like the policy landscape it flows from, is complex. Funding for policies delivering on fuel poverty come from a variety of sources, including the UK and Scottish Governments, local authorities and the third sector. Within the Scottish Government, fuel poverty alleviating funding sits within a number of different directorate budgets. To add to this complexity funds are raised in a number of ways, including general taxation and industry levies.

We recognise, and have highlighted, the tension between (a) the tactical support needed for those suffering fuel poverty now and (b) the strategic approach needed to prevent (i) those in fuel poverty remaining fuel poor and (ii) others at risk of falling into fuel poverty in the future from becoming fuel poor. We have commented specifically on the ending of the Fuel Insecurity Fund, the potential to redesign the devolved cold weather benefits to target those suffering fuel poverty more effectively and, beyond this, how a holistic approach to relieving fuel poverty by the UK Government could eradicate it completely through a well-designed energy discount mechanism.

We will map different funding streams, their objectives and where the balance lies between immediate fuel poverty relief and longer-term prevention. In doing this, we will explore the following questions:

  •  How much funding has been allocated by governments?
  • Is the money allocated being spent?
  • What are key strengths and limitations of funding streams?
  • Are there gaps in funding?

We will also hold a roundtable to test views on the impact of the Fuel Insecurity Fund.

2. The Systemic impact of rural and remote fuel poverty

In August 2023, we visited Inverness and heard from those living in rural fuel poverty in the Highlands and Islands, alongside several organisations working to support them. We recognise how important it is that the voice of those in fuel poverty is heard in the current debate, including on the future of the UK’s energy system. This debate is live as the UK Government and Ofgem consult on the future shape of the energy system, and critically, the consumer protections within it. The Scottish Government is also acting and responding by moving towards publishing its Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan. It has also set out its view of the framework for future domestic heat in buildings policy through its consultation on a Heat in Buildings Bill.

The recently published Scottish House Condition Survey (February 2024) , which contains data for 2022, found a fuel poverty rate for rural households of 35% versus an urban rate of 30%, with a rate of 47% for remote rural households. Those reliant on electric heating systems as their primary heating source, which is more common in off-gas grid, often rural areas, experienced fuel poverty rates of 46%. These figures speak for themselves. Whilst the impact on energy bills of being off-grid is starting to be better understood, we do not have the sense that this is true of the impact of being on/not having access to the optimum metre to match heating type.
We will explore the following:

  • How does metering work for those living in fuel poverty?
  • Has anything changed since Changeworks published its seminal report last year offering solutions to rural poverty?
  • What could change which would immediately have positive impact on those in fuel poverty?

We will visit na h-Eileanan Siar [the Western Isles] to hear about these rural fuel poverty issues in one of the places where they are being experienced most acutely.

3. Heat network models and what works for those in fuel poverty

We have a statutory role under section 35(3) and 54(3) of the Heat Networks (Scotland) Act 2021 for guidance on reviews, designation, and variations of heat network zones by local authorities and for any regulations relating to determining heat network consent applications or modifying heat network consents. Given the potential to offered by heat networks support and lift people out of fuel poverty (which we have seen first-hand through our engagement with Aberdeen Heat and Power), the Scottish Government’s heat network ambition set out in its Heat in Buildings Bill Consultation, and the fact that all Scottish Local Authorities will now have a Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy, we are keen to understand and explore:

  •  What heat network models work best for those in fuel poverty?
  • Can community benefits be used to take forward heat networks for the benefit of those in fuel poverty?
  • What does good practice look like for fuel poverty-alleviating heat networks and what role can local authorities and the Scottish Government play in fostering these?

We will hold a roundtable to explore these, and other questions, on heat networks.

4.  Fuel poverty through a public health lens

We are convinced that there are substantive opportunities to relieve and prevent fuel poverty through taking a public health approach. The Panel heard, during its visit to Aberdeen, how the Warm Homes Prescription Trial piloted there supported people with health conditions living in areas of socio-economic deprivation to stay warm. The pilot also enabled the vulnerable to make energy efficient changes to their homes to reduce and safeguard from the negative health effects of living in a cold home. This example of social prescribing had positive effects for those in fuel poverty, while also offering the promise of how a shift to preventative spend can save money for health services down the line while alleviating the suffering caused by fuel poverty. We expect this theme of a public health approach to fuel poverty to run through the whole lifetime of our April 2024 – March 2027 Strategic Plan. Engaging with other public bodies, health services and the wider stakeholder community, we will begin to explore:

  • The links between fuel poverty and health – building on our previous conversations.
  • The public health outcomes of social prescribing initiatives, such as Warm Homes Prescription, modelled by Catapult Energy Systems, and potentially where social prescribing has been used effectively in other policy areas.
  • How funding might be re-purposed to alleviate fuel poverty while supporting the sustainability of Health services.

We will engage with Public Health Scotland and others in our work on this theme.

5. Other priorities

Our intention, using the small resources we have to best effect, is to work responsively, flexibly, and proportionally so that we can react to, and offer our thinking on, emerging fuel poverty issues. We will fulfil our scrutiny obligations and continue to consolidate the governance infrastructure that, as a relatively new organisation, we have started to build.

  • We will continue to support Scottish Government as it works to develop a monitoring and evaluation framework for its Tackling Fuel Poverty Strategy.
  •  In the first quarter of 2025, the Scottish Government will produce its first periodic report setting out how its progress towards meeting the 2040 fuel poverty targets. We have a statutory role in offering our views on this report during the drafting period. We will then offer our own formal response and wider reflections on Scottish Government’s progress in our subsequent annual report for April 2024 to March 2025.
  • We will publish our first annual report (January 2022 to March 2024) covering the first two years of our operation in summer 2024.
  • We will produce a research plan to underpin this April 2024 to March 2025 workplan, in the summer, and will share research findings with Scottish Government, other public bodies and third sector organisations, taking every opportunity to collaborate where possible.
  • We will offer the Poverty and Inequality Commission our reflections, from a fuel poverty perspective, on the Scottish Government’s progress on the implementation of the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
  •  As the current Panel enters the third year of its appointment, we will work with the Scottish Government to produce a succession plan informed by our strategic goals and skills’ matrix.
  •  As a relatively new body, we will consider what further formation and development we, and our supporting Secretariat, need to deliver our work priorities and our wider strategic plan – reflecting any gaps in our skills’ matrix.
  • We will continue to work with the Scottish Government and the National Records of Scotland to further develop our document management plan to national standards.
  • We will formalise our risk management approach.
Collaboration and engagement
  • Collaboration and engagement will underpin all workplan activity. In delivering this plan, we will seek every opportunity to engage with and listen to those with lived experience of fuel poverty, with central and local government, parliamentary committees, third sector organisations, the regulator, and players in the energy sector. We will also actively engage with other public bodies where there is a connected interest in fuel poverty and its effects.
  • Specific collaboration will include strengthening our engagement with Ofgem and building our relationship with the Committee on Fuel Poverty in England and the Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel in Wales.
How we will monitor the delivery and success of this plan
  • Delivery – we plan to meet in-person six times over the lifetime of this plan (April 2024 to March 2025), with online meetings in between these as needed. We will use our meetings to check in, modify if needed, and monitor the delivery of our workplan.
  • Success: we will monitor the success of this plan by identifying indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of this plan and will provide an update in next year’s annual report. This will be contained within the work to evaluate the success of our Strategic Plan 2024-2027.

The new First Minister has set out that his top priority is to eradicate child poverty . We would suggest that this cannot be achieved without a similar priority to eradicate fuel poverty. With almost a third of Scottish households living in fuel poverty, many of these will be households with children . Like the eradication of child poverty, the eradication of fuel poverty would transform the lives of a third of Scotland’s households now and protect future life opportunities too. Through the delivery of our March 2024 to March 2025 workplan, we intend to facilitate changes, and build foundations, which will help to bring our vision of a Scotland where no one lives in fuel poverty closer.

We welcome comments on this plan and approaches for engagement and or collaboration –

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