Fuel Poverty Overview

This page gives an overview of the relevant statistics, definitions and information for fuel poverty in Scotland.


Number of households in fuel poverty in Scotland – 25% or 619,000

Number of households in extreme fuel poverty in Scotland – 11.3% or 279, 000

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 2018.

The first set of fuel poverty estimates fully compatible with all of the elements of the new definition in the Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act are expected to be published in December 2021.

The Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report now only publishes the figure for England and not for the UK as a whole.

For more figures, please see Statistics and Trends

Definitions

The new Scottish definition of fuel poverty is:

A household is in fuel poverty if the household’s fuel costs (necessary to meet the requisite temperature and amount of hours as well as other reasonable fuel needs) are more than 10% of the household’s adjusted net income and after deducting these fuel costs, benefits received for a care need or disability, childcare costs, the household’s remaining income is not enough to maintain an acceptable standard of living.

(Source:  Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act 2019)

The requisite temperature and amount of hours is defined as:

For households requiring an enhanced heating regime, this would be 23°C in the living room and 20°C in other rooms.  For other households, this is 21°C in the living room and 18°C in other rooms. For a household for which enhanced heating hours is appropriate, heating the home to the requisite temperatures for 16 hours a day, every day. For any other household, heating the home to the requisite temperatures for 9 hours a day on a weekday and 16 hours a day at the weekend.
“Net income” means the income of all adults in the household after deduction of income tax and national insurance contributions.

(Source: Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland Act 2019)

Who is Affected

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

  • Approximately half (49%) of fuel poor households are other households without children.
  • Around 15% of households living in fuel poverty are families with children, and 36% are older households.
  • Fuel poverty has a strong association with income and households in the lower income bands have the highest rates of fuel poverty: 95% for the bottom income band and 55% for the 2nd bottom band.
  • The highest rates of fuel poverty by tenure are found in the social sector where 39% of local authority and housing association households are fuel poor. In comparison, only 10% of those with a mortgage are assessed to be fuel poor.
  • The 2018 fuel poverty rate for outright owners (23%) is higher than the 2017 rate (18%).
  • The large urban area household fuel poverty rate increased by 4 percentage points, from 21% to 25% in 2018.
  • Levels of fuel poverty among households using electricity as primary heating fuel have remained among the highest, at 43%

(Source: Scottish House Condition Survey: Key Findings 2018)

Main Causes

The main causes are:

Poor energy efficiency of the dwelling – For more information see Home Energy and Fuel Poverty (Scottish Government website)
Low disposable household income – For more information see Poverty and Inequality
High price of domestic fuel – For more information see Energy Trends and Quarterly Prices (BEIS)
How energy is used in the home – this was recognised by the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group as a driver of fuel poverty in their report A Scotland without fuel poverty is a fairer Scotland

Of the main policy areas affecting fuel poverty, household income and energy regulation are matters reserved to the UK Government, while energy efficiency is devolved to the Scottish Government. 

Changes in Average Energy Bills

Changes in the last year

The average UK 2018 electricity bill has increased by £49 since 2017, to £668. Meanwhile, the average UK 2018 gas bill has also increased by £16 since 2017, to £646.

Average 2018 combined electricity and gas bills have increased by £65 to £1,314.

Changes in Energy Bills over the last 10 years

Year

Avg Gas Bill

Avg Electricity Bill

2008

517

477

2009

582

488

2010

564

474

2011

617

513

2012

686

542

2013

729

577

2014

752

592

2015

715

584

2016

650

586

2017

630

619

2018

646

672

(Source: Quarterly Energy Prices, BEIS, March 2019) See Energy Trends and Quarterly Prices

An average domestic dual fuel bill, for a customer paying by direct debit for 2018 is £1,254.

(Source: Ofgem)

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 2018/19 in Scotland are 2,060. See Increased Winter Mortality (Excess Winter Deaths)

(Source: Winter Mortality in Scotland 2018/19, NRS)

Solutions and Responsibilities for Action

The Scottish Parliament passed the Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act in June 2019, which set a new target of 2040 for eradicating fuel poverty. The Act also requires Scottish Ministers to prepare a Fuel Poverty Strategy. See Targets and Definitions – Scotland

Local authorities also contribute to eradicating fuel poverty through their Local Housing Strategies.

As a consequence, there is a range of Policy, Legislation and Schemes in operation at European, UK, Scottish and local levels to address fuel poverty.