One of the SRT Working Groups is currently looking at Energy Issues and Fuel Poverty, with the aim of reporting to the 2016 General Assembly. This is a highly topical and fast-moving subject. In the past few months there have been very significant developments, such as the UK Government’s plans to terminate renewable energy subsidies and the announced closure of Longannet power station.
All of this is against the backdrop of Paris this December, when over 190 countries will meet at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. The urgent challenge is to negotiate a deal which will limit emissions from developed countries and help developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change and develop low carbon economies.
These developments may seem to be focussed on governments and huge multi-national energy companies. However the reality for many of the most vulnerable in our communities is a day-to-day struggle to afford to keep warm. Our group has found some encouraging success stories, such as Community Energy projects in rural and island locations which unite communities and generate benefits for the local population. However, many challenges remain. Despite the Scottish Government’s aim to eliminate Fuel Poverty by November 2016, levels have risen to 39.1% of households in the most recent figures. Improving the energy efficiency of existing homes is becoming more difficult as the most straightforward measures such as loft insulation and cavity wall insulation reach saturation levels.
Our report is due to be published in March 2016 and will be presented to the General Assembly in May. As well as challenging governments to address the issues we have identified, we will be encouraging congregations and individuals to take responsibility for the stewardship of our world and its resources.
By Finlay Buchanan, Church and Society Council and SRT Project Committee Member