Highland households in extreme fuel poverty to benefit from new fund

(Left to right) Lindsay Dougan, SSE Renewables senior community investment manager with Isla MacMillan, project manager for climate change & energy at the Highland Council

THE Highland Council and SSE Renewables have joined forces to offer a range of energy adaptions to the homes of those facing extreme fuel poverty.

It comes after the pair said that the cost of living crisis is having a ‘devastating’ impact on households across the area, with Scottish Government figures indicating 33% of Highland households are experiencing fuel poverty – compared to a national average of 24%.

Due to rising costs in energy prices, it is anticipated that these figures will increase significantly. For example, 62% of the properties currently signed up for the 2022/23 air source heat pump programme are classed as ‘extreme fuel poor’.

The Highland Council has been delivering the Scottish Government’s energy efficiency Scotland – area based scheme for over nine years, which offers households the opportunity to benefit from grant funded innovative, energy efficiency measures, which have the potential to improve people’s living conditions.

Receiving vital grant support from SSE Renewables Highland’s sustainable development fund this week, the scheme will provide additional funds to reduce or remove entirely householder contributions for those in extreme fuel poverty.

The SSE Renewable fund is part of the organisation’s commitment to the Scottish Government’s good practice principals for community benefits from onshore wind. SSE re-invest part of the profits from wind farms back into local communities.

It supports strategic projects across the Highland local authority area and allows SSE to direct support to projects that can achieve significant impact in local communities. It has offered the Highland Council £1 million of grant funding to be spent over 2022/23 and 2023/24 with the option to extend funding to 2024/25 if necessary. The funding will be used exclusively to support Highland households in extreme fuel poverty.

The EES:ABS grant and new funding will be used to reduce/remove household contributions on a range of energy efficiency measures including, air source heat pumps; cavity wall insulation; loft insulation; external wall insulation; and solar PV and battery.

While the programme adopts a fabric first approach, SSE Renewables said that the 2022/23 programme has a particular focus on installation of air source heat pumps and also encouraging householders to consider cavity wall, loft insulation, and solar panels and battery storage.

SSE Renewables said that the funding from Scottish Government grant covers the cost of the installation, in the most part, although some works may require a household contribution to meet the shortfall between installation cost and funding available.

Leader of the Highland Council, councillor Raymond Bremner, said, “Highland is experiencing some of the highest levels of fuel poverty in Scotland. It is crucial that we encourage as many people as possible to sign up to the Energy Efficiency Scotland – Area Based Scheme to benefit from grant funding to carry out energy efficiency improvements to their homes, improving comfort levels and attempt to minimise the impact of rising fuel costs.

“We are delighted to announce the arrival of grant support from SSE Renewables which, through the area-based scheme, will help us deliver efficiency savings to those households most in need.”