By Elizabeth Leighton

EVERY day we hear of more hardship due to the energy crisis. It’s estimated that in some parts of Scotland, fuel poverty rates could go over 50 per cent. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has added further urgency and impetus to the need to cut oil and gas use in the UK, as it will contribute to reduced European reliance on imported Russian gas and oil that is funding the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The energy crisis hurts those on low to middle incomes hardest because they spend a larger proportion of their income on energy bills. They get hit doubly hard if they live in an energy-inefficient home – with bills rising by 35% more than a home that has "good" energy performance.

Cash support will help give some immediate relief to households but tackles only the symptom and not the cause. The Existing Homes Alliance is calling for a "doubling down" on energy efficiency and clean heat to give long-term protection from volatile fossil fuel prices. We can insulate homes far more quickly than building new power stations or developing new oil and gas fields, whilst contributing to meeting our climate change targets.

But this isn’t just about comfort or fuel bills – the poor condition of Scotland’s homes contributes to ill health. The UK’s building stock is amongst the coldest and leakiest in Western Europe. If we move quickly on energy efficiency we can reduce these negative health impacts before the next few winters, when a triple whammy of flu, Covid-19 and fuel poverty could face the NHS.

We believe cold and damp homes should be a thing of the past. Yet in 2022, more than half of Scotland’s homes are below a "good" level of energy efficiency (Energy Performance Certificate band C). Upgrading these homes could save on average over £500 every year on household energy bills, while creating good, quality jobs all over Scotland.

The Scottish Government needs to urgently pump more investment into its good fuel poverty, energy efficiency and clean heat schemes – extending eligibility and reaching more people, faster. We also want to see the Government expand its advice programmes with more support for retrofit and clean heat, alongside the introduction of standards – making it easy for homeowners, landlords, and installers to invest.

The Existing Homes Alliance published a new report this week which shows how this could be done fairly and effectively: Owning the Future: A Framework of Regulations for Decarbonising Owner-occupied homes in Scotland, by Dr Catrin Maby and Louise Sunderland. Introducing new standards, along with advice and funding support, will tell us what we need to do and when, helping us to improve our homes’ comfort and reduce running costs.

If ever there was a time to go big on home energy efficiency, it’s now. We can make a difference this spring and summer, helping people before the next winter and the predicted price cap increase of over 30% in October which is on top of last month’s increase of over 50%. It’s about saving lives now, and in the future – as we tackle both fuel poverty and the climate crisis in one step.

Elizabeth Leighton is Director, Existing Homes Alliance Scotland