Conference to explore the hidden geographies of fuel poverty

23 March 2017

Dr Keith Baker

Dr Keith Baker

The Scottish Government’s definition of fuel poverty will be one of the topics keenly debated at a parliamentary event next week.

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and Energy Action Scotland will take part in the third meeting of the Fuel Poverty Research Network (FPRN), which includes a reception at the Scottish Parliament sponsored by Andy Wightman MSP, and an address by Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government and Housing.

The reception will hear from GCU’s Dr Keith Baker and PhD student Ron Mould on their research on the ‘hidden geographies’ of fuel poverty in rural and island Scotland; Dr Aimee Ambrose of Sheffield Hallam University, and Chair of FPRN, on her work on addressing fuel poverty in the privately rented sector; and Dr David Kidney, Chair of the Eaga Charitable Trust, who funded both of the projects.

The main meeting will be held at St Augustine Church in Edinburgh, with speakers from academia and the third sector, including Citizens Advice, National Energy Action, the University of Glasgow and Energy Action Scotland.

The Scottish Government is currently reviewing its definition of fuel poverty, which classifies a household as being fuel poor if they need to spend more than 10% of their income on maintaining a reasonable level of warmth.

As the Scottish Government has already signalled that it does not intend to adopt the alternative definition that has been in use in England since 2013, much of the discussion will be centred on how the current Scottish definition could be adapted to enable support for the fuel poor to be better targeted at the most vulnerable, isolated and most in need households.

Dr Baker said: “We were delighted to be approached to host this meeting, which comes at an important time, as the Scottish Government are currently developing a raft of new policies related to fuel poverty, as well as reviewing the definition itself.

“While the Scottish definition of fuel poverty isn’t perfect, it is still a significantly better measure of the problem than that used in England. Our work is showing how the current definition could be adapted to better account for the impact of the urban-rural divide, and to enable more effective targeting of support to the most vulnerable.”

The GCU team is now collaborating with Kent State University, Ohio, Durham University, the University of York, Energy Action Scotland, and a number of third-sector organisations across Scotland, on a proposal to develop a risk-based assessment of fuel poverty that retains and expands on the current definition.