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Fuel Poverty Overview

Number of households in fuel poverty in Scotland – 34.9% or 845,000

Number of households in extreme fuel poverty in Scotland – 9.5% or 229, 000

Number of households in the UK in fuel poverty – 17% or 4.5 million   

The official figures for fuel poverty in Scotland are published as part of the Scottish House Condition Survey (Scottish Government). The most recent figures for Scotland relate to 2014. The official UK figure for fuel poverty is from the Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report which DECC publishes. The most recent figure for the UK relates to 2013.

For more figures, please see Statistics and Trends.


The full Scottish definition of fuel poverty is:

  • A household is in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income on all household fuel use. If over 20% of income is required, then this is termed as being in extreme fuel poverty.

(Source: The Scottish Fuel Poverty Statement, 2002)

A satisfactory heating regime is defined as:

  • For “vulnerable” households, 23°C in the living room and 18°C in other rooms.  For other households, this is 21°C in the living room and 18°C in other rooms.

Income is defined by the Scottish Government as that of the householder and their partner not the whole household.

(Sources: Scottish House Condition Survey)

Who is Affected

Many people in society are affected, but here are some examples:

  • Single pensioner households are at the high end of the fuel poverty rate at 58%.
  • Fuel poverty for single adult households is above average at 41%.
  • Rates for older smaller households (containing 2 pensioners) are relatively high at 44%.

(Source: Scottish House Condition Survey: Key Findings 2014)

Main Causes

The main causes are:

Of the three main policy areas affecting fuel poverty, two of them i.e. household income and energy regulation, are matters reserved to the UK Government, while energy efficiency is a matter devolved to the Scottish Government. 


Changes in Average Energy Bills

Changes in the last year

The average 2015 electricity bill has decreased by £8 since 2014, to £584. Meanwhile, the average 2015 gas bill has decreased by £37 since 2014, to £715.

Average 2015 combined electricity and gas bills have fallen by £45 to £1,299.

Changes in Energy Bills over the last 10 years

Year Avg Gas Bills Avg Electricity Bills
2005 317 318
2006 387 374
2007 441 415
2008 517 477
2009 582 488
2010 564 474
2011 617 513
2012 686 542
2013 729 577
2014 752 592
2015 715 584

(Source: Quarterly Energy Prices, DECC, December 2015)


Impact of Fuel Poverty

The consequences of fuel poverty are misery, discomfort, ill health and debt.  Living in a cold, damp environment can also exacerbate health problems such as asthma and heart conditions. Often people struggling to pay their bills ration their use of energy, perhaps just heating one room or making the choice between cooking a hot meal and turning on a heater. Using appliances such as washing machines and heating water for baths or showers can be a worry too. 

There is a link between fuel poverty and increased winter mortality or excess winter deaths. Increased winter mortality is associated with low indoor temperatures.

Excess winter mortality figures for 2014/15 in Scotland are 4,060, which is the highest level for 15 years. See Increased winter mortality (excess winter deaths)

(Source: Winter Mortality in Scotland 2014/15, NRS)


Solutions and Responsibilities for Action

The Scottish Government is required to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland as far as is reasonably practicable by November 2016, according to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001.

The Fuel Poverty Statement was published under section 88 of the Housing (Scotland) Act and sets out what is being done in order to end fuel poverty. Every five years, there is a progress report on the Scottish Fuel Poverty Statement, the latest one having been published in 2014. 2014 Progress Report on the Scottish Fuel Poverty Statement

Local authorities also contribute to meeting this statutory duty, through their Local Housing Strategies.

The EU also has a role in issuing directives that affect, for example, energy performance and consumer regulation. See EU Policy and Legislation pertinent to fuel poverty

As a consequence, there is a range of legislation, policy and schemes in operation at European, UK, Scottish and local levels to address fuel poverty.