EDINBURGH, Scotland — In 2018, about 619,000 households in Scotland, or 25% were in fuel poverty. The East Lothian Council and People’s Energy, a social enterprise, recently launched East Lothian Energy. Their goal is eradicating fuel poverty in East Lothian.
What is Fuel Poverty?
In Scotland, the definition of fuel poverty is “if a household spends more than 10% of its income on fuel costs and if the remaining household income is insufficient to maintain an adequate standard of living.” The NEA has estimated that more than 4 million U.K. households are affected by fuel poverty. While many factors contribute to fuel poverty, some main factors include household income, the energy efficiency of the property and the cost of energy itself. Currently, the number of households experiencing fuel poverty is rising due to the rise in both the cost of energy and the general cost of living.
Eradicating Fuel Poverty in Scotland
While the overall poverty rates in Scotland have decreased since the 1990s, 19% of working-age people and 24% of children in Scotland are still in poverty. The government has been making efforts towards eradicating fuel poverty in Scotland with the hopes of improving the quality of life for its’ citizens. In February 2018, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland announced a £54.5 million energy efficiency program.
The program’s aim is that all homes in Scotland will undergo improvements so they can achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of at least Band C by 2040. In November 2019, the government announced a grant program for landlords of social housing. This program would make the buildings more energy-efficient and reduce the carbon footprint of 900 social rented properties.
The Importance of Eradicating Fuel Poverty in East Lothian
The East Lothian Council found in 2016 that 15,000 households were living in fuel poverty and 7% of households were living in extreme fuel poverty. The council found that people who live in social housing and pensioners are more likely to experience fuel poverty. They found that the large issues of fuel poverty are in towns that have high correlations with instances of multiple deprivations. Areas identified as “deprived” could be low income, or they could just have fewer resources and opportunities.
How Does Fuel Poverty Affect People?
The UCL Institute of Health Equity linked fuel poverty and health in September 2014. Energy inefficient homes are costly and sometimes difficult to heat, so they may experience cold conditions. The institute found links between the increased risk of developing multiple health conditions and cold homes. Research has found that cold conditions impair the functioning of the lungs. It also lowers the body’s resistance to respiratory infections.
Warm homes are also vital for mental well-being. The institute found a link between increases in room temperature and a reduction in the likelihood of experiencing depression and/or anxiety. There is also an association between poor educational performance among children and cold homes. Researchers found that poor educational performance among children in cold homes is partly due to higher rates of sickness. This in turn leads to higher rates of absence from school.
Eradicating Fuel Poverty in East Lothian
East Lothian Energy is a range of affordable energy tariffs available exclusively to East Lothian residents. People’s Energy states that the tariffs offer potential savings of up to £200 a year. Since People’s Energy has no external shareholders, they give 75% of their profits back to their members.
People’s Energy is the only community interest company energy supplier in the U.K. The enterprise only uses renewable sources to produce electricity and has made a commitment to providing green energy. The initiative will reduce Scotland’s emissions since its electricity fuel mix is 100% biomass which is sourced in the U.K. Scotland is improving the wellbeing of their citizens by eradicating fuel poverty in East Lothian. But they are also doing their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately save our planet.
– Araceli Mercer