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 – 24.9% or 613,000

Number of households in extreme fuel poverty in Scotland – 7% or 174,000

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 2017.

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 .


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.

(Source: Scottish House Condition Survey)

Who is Affected

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

  • Those households using oil as their primary heating fuel saw the greatest increase in fuel poverty rates with 40% estimated to be in fuel poverty in 2017, up from 26% in 2016.
  • Over half of fuel poor households are older households while 11% are families with children and 37% are other households without children.
  • On average the social and private sector have similar rates of fuel poverty at 24% and 27% respectively in 2017.
  • Approximately half (51%) of fuel poor households are older one- or two-person households.
  • Around 11% of households living in fuel poverty are families with children, and 37% are other adult households without children.

(Source: Scottish House Condition Survey: Key Findings 2017)

Main Causes

The main causes are:

Poor energy efficiency of the dwelling – For more information see Sustainable Housing (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)

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 UK 2017 electricity bill has increased by £33 since 2016, to £619. Meanwhile, the average UK 2017 gas bill has decreased by £20 since 2016, to £630.

Average 2017 combined electricity and gas bills have increased by £13 to £1,249.

Changes in Energy Bills over the last 10 years

Year Avg Gas Bill Avg Electricity Bill
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
2016 650 586
2017 630 619

(Source: Quarterly Energy Prices, BEIS, March 2018) See Energy Trends and Quarterly Prices.

An average domestic dual fuel bill, across all payment methods, for 2017 is £1,117.

(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 2017/18 in Scotland are 4,800. See Increased Winter Mortality (Excess Winter Deaths)

(Source: Winter Mortality in Scotland 2017/18, NRS)

Solutions and Responsibilities for Action

The Scottish Government was required to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland as far as was reasonably practicable by November 2016, according to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. This statutory duty expired and the target was missed. See Definitions and Targets - Scotland.

Local authorities also contribute to eradicating fuel poverty 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.

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.