Fuel Poverty in Argyll & Bute
The Scottish Government’s agreed definition of Fuel Poverty is:
“A household is in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income (including housing benefit or income support for mortgage interest) on all household fuel use”.
There are three main factors which influence whether a household is in fuel poverty;
1. Fuel costs: Higher prices reduce the affordability of fuel. Prices of different types of fuels can vary considerably, as can the availability of different fuels in different areas. Fuel poverty is increasing nationally due to increased costs of fuel.
What this means in Argyll & Bute? No gas availability across the majority of the area – oil and electricity are the main sources of heating across much of the area, and these are subject to price fluctuations and potentially high costs. Households with electric heating are unable to access discounted dual fuel tariffs. Many of Argyll & Bute’s population do not have access to the internet and therefore are unable to receive discounts for online billing from their energy supplier.
2. Insufficient income: The cost of heating a property forms a large proportion of the household’s income.
What this means in Argyll & Bute? Lower wages in Argyll & Bute than the national average. Many workers are on a seasonal or zero hours contract. A higher than average proportion of the population are economically inactive. Some 30.4% of households in Argyll are aged 65 and over and the age profile of the population is expected to increase further in the future, exacerbating the relatively low level of economic activity in the area.
3. Energy efficiency: The thermal quality of the building and the efficiency of the heating system determine the amount of energy that must be purchased to heat the home adequately.
What this means in Argyll & Bute? A higher than average number of properties (88.5%) are non-compliant with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) – so there is a high proportion of hard-to-heat, hard-to-treat housing (pre-1919, stone built, one and a half storey properties) with low levels of insulation and single glazing. This combined with harsh weather conditions reduces the energy efficiency ratings of properties.
Fuel poverty is a dynamic condition – people can fall in and out of fuel poverty as their circumstances change. People can fall into fuel poverty if:
- The price of gas, electricity or oil increases. Fuel bills have increased and are expected to continue to increase.
- Individuals reduce their income – for example through retiring; having a career break to look after young children; having their hours reduced due to changing economic conditions, or if they lose their job.
- A home may become less energy efficient if the building fabric or heating system has fallen into a state of disrepair.