Comment by Josiah Lockhart, Chief Executive of Changeworks
Each winter quickly brings into sharp focus how much we rely on the heat of our homes to keep us warm and healthy. The recent cold snap across Scotland, where temperatures fell as low as -14C in some parts of the Highlands, is testament to that.
But sadly, there are many households across the country who can’t or won’t put their heating on for fear of what it will cost them. January saw the energy price cap rise once again, this time to £1,928 a year for a typical household – a rise of 5% – putting a further strain on those already struggling with the cost of living.
Scotland has some of the least energy efficient housing in Europe, and home heating reliant on fossil fuels amount to 13% of Scotland’s carbon emissions. Around 35% of Scottish households are in fuel poverty, and over 50% of homes have an Energy Performance rating of D or below.
This is where the link between the climate crisis and fuel poverty crisis becomes obvious. Relying on oil and gas for home heating leads to higher, unaffordable energy bills.
The UK Government’s recent watering down of climate policy, and continued reliance on fossil fuel heating, will continue to have a devastating impact on those already struggling with high energy bills and will condemn more people to fuel poverty.
Improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes is key to alleviating fuel poverty, lowering carbon emissions and meeting our net zero targets.
Climate change is the most significant threat to the environment and our way of life, and the Scottish public know this. A recent survey* by Changeworks showed that 79% of respondents think climate change is a major problem that needs to be addressed.
People also really care about taking action to address the climate emergency. Whether that’s changing lifelong habits or installing energy efficient measures in their home, there is a clear willingness from the Scottish public to tackle climate change head on.
Cost, however, is a huge barrier to this. In our recent survey, 57% of respondents said that cost is stopping them from making changes to their home to make it more energy efficient. This is despite over half of respondents stating they’d consider installing technology like an air source heat pump. The cost-of-living crisis has made this task even more difficult.
It is clear that more support is required to make decarbonising homes a reality. Only 39% of survey respondents were aware that schemes, such the Home Energy Scotland Grant, are available to help finance retrofits.
Alongside more financial support, we need legislative and policy drivers to enable the acceleration of decarbonisation. Changeworks welcomes the Scottish Government’s current consultation on its Heat in Buildings Bill.
This bill will lead to new laws that will require homeowners to work towards making their homes more energy efficient, such as replacing gas boilers with a renewable solution like air source heat pumps.
However, this also means more householders will need more information and support to enable them to decarbonise. Currently, only 11% of Scottish households use a renewable or low carbon heating system.
At Changeworks, we have over 35 years’ experience in home decarbonisation. In 2022/23 alone, working with Scottish councils and social landlords, we installed over 7,700 home energy efficiency measures.
We continue to invest in more services that will enable householders to meet the new standards set out by the bill, including recently launched EcoCosi, a tailored home retrofit service for householders. By investing in services and provision, Changeworks is driving change to enable Scottish homeowners to have more energy efficient homes which cost less to heat.
A low carbon society must be a just one. Decarbonising and improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes is key to this.
*Changeworks commissioned a nationally representative survey of adults in Scotland in November ’23 managed by 56 Degree Insight.