By Ross Armstrong, Warmworks’ Chief Executive.
Rising energy costs and the impact they will have on the number of homes across the country in fuel poverty have now reached the point of a national social crisis – one that threatens to get worse before it gets better with winter looming on the horizon. That’s why it’s critical to draw attention to the steps that can be taken now to help us stay more affordably warm in our home and manage our energy bills as we begin to move into the colder months.
As the Managing Agent for the Scottish Government’s national fuel poverty scheme, Warmer Homes Scotland, Warmworks has helped more than 29,000 homes across the country to be warmer, more comfortable and more energy efficient. And this is a scheme with a truly national footprint, with homes across every Local Authority in Scotland benefitting from heating and insulation improvements in each of the last six years. This is delivered by our supply chain of 25 registered and accredited sub-contractors, eight of whom are based in the Highlands and Islands.
Warmworks also delivers bespoke programmes for social landlords in local communities across the country, from Orkney to Angus to the Scottish Borders. These programmes aim to support social landlords in the delivery of their regulatory obligations whilst simultaneously helping local people and families to stay warmer in their homes, to effectively embrace renewable technologies, and to better manage their energy bills.
The work we do also aims to support the Scottish Government’s ambitions for creating a net zero nation through decarbonising our homes. The route to get there by 2045 is clear, and it is one that will involve a technological, economic and societal shift on a significant scale.
In practice, there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach for homes across the country as to how this is achieved. What’s more, fuel poor households are unlikely to have the means to get there by themselves, especially in the current context of rising energy prices and a squeeze on household incomes.
There can be no transition at all unless there is a just transition. One where everyone is brought along as part of the journey, and no-one is left behind.
In practice, achieving this means that a key focus has to be on providing the right programmes of targeted, funded interventions that come with the right level of bespoke support and guidance for fuel poor households. This work must be tailored to meet the demands of individual households and must be able to adapt to the needs of different communities and house types – never taking fuel poor households for granted or assuming that they are one and the same; instead, finding the right technical solutions to meet their needs and finding the right supply chain of skilled, accredited and locally-based companies to carry out high-quality installations.
Our customer Mr N from Cupar, Fife had an air source heat pump, which is a renewable form of heating technology, installed with a new hot water system, and said this after the installation:
“Mentally, it has made a huge difference – I used to just dread every winter coming, and really found it quite depressing, so the fact that we now have a system that can take that side of it away is definitely improving my health. I’m looking forward to having a winter – the first in many years – where I don’t stress out about the fact that I am freezing in most of the house”.
The dual policy drivers of urgently addressing fuel poverty and rapidly moving towards net zero are not mutually exclusive and can be delivered effectively together within the right framework. The technologies of the future are ready now and can – with the right support, the right approach and the right level of oversight – be rolled out in a way that delivers decarbonised heating to those most in need.
This blog post is adapted from an article which appeared in Holyrood Magazine’s 2022 Annual Review.