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SSE Renewables Teams Up With Highland Council To Support People Facing Extreme Fuel Poverty

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The Cost-of-Living Crisis is having a devastating impact on households across Highland. Scottish Government figures indicate 33% of households in Highland are experiencing fuel poverty, compared to the national average of 24%. Figures also estimate that 22% of Highland households are facing extreme fuel poverty.

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’.

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.

The scheme has this week received vital grant support from SSE Renewables Highland Sustainable Development Fund, which 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.

The Sustainable Development Fund 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.

The Fund has offered Highland Council £1m 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 Pump
Cavity Wall Insulation
Loft Insulation
External Wall Insulation
Solar PV and battery
While the programme adopts a fabric first approach, 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.

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. This is where the SSE Renewables Grant can help those experiencing extreme fuel poverty.

The Scottish Government grant is available for owner occupiers and private rented properties subject to eligibility (see table below), grant funding cannot be used to cover installation costs for social properties (either Council or Registered Landlord).

The Council is encouraging households to apply for its Energy Efficient Scotland: Area Based Scheme (EES:ABS) as part of plans to ease fuel poverty in the region.

Without EES:ABS there is currently no other long-term support to households in fuel poverty and those vulnerable to living with the effects of a cold home.

Leader of Highland Council, Cllr 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.”

Cllr Bremner also highlighted that the scheme is open to all owner occupier and privately rented properties who meet eligibility criteria and encouraged members of the public to make inquiries about the scheme.

He added: “One of the key issues we have faced to date is a lack of sign-ups for the scheme. We are encouraging local members to promote this scheme through their ward meetings to highlight its many benefits.”

He added: “On top of the financial savings the scheme also delivers significant carbon savings and enables householders to meet the challenges of climate change and improve properties energy efficiency rating in accordance with Scottish Government targets.”

“The Sustainable Development Fund is focused on creating lasting transformation in the Highlands. The £1 million investment in improving energy efficiency for Highland households is the largest donation made by the fund. The funding will help many vulnerable residents benefit from warm, sustainable homes for years to come.”

LORD JACK MCCONNELL
CHAIR OF THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT FUND
The programme, on average, has annual carbon savings of 20,897 tonnes (pre-COVID figure), making a significant contribution to a low carbon Highland.

Over the last nine years the scheme has leveraged around £34 million of external funding to the Highlands to deliver energy efficiency measures to over 3,100 privately owned and privately rented properties throughout the Highlands.


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