The SRT Project ran a very successful event at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on April 6, based on our recent investigations into Energy Issues and Fuel Poverty. Chaired by Sarah Boyack, former Minister for the Environment, it took the form of a panel discussion featuring three experts whose knowledge and experience have been particularly influential in shaping the thinking of our group.
John Cunningham, Head of Energy Services at Western Isles Council, talked of the challenges faced by people living in homes that are exposed to a harsh climate and are often difficult to insulate using conventional methods. This, combined with high costs of energy, means that Fuel Poverty levels are among the highest in the country – around 60-70% of householders needing to spend more than 10% of their income just to keep warm. John described the exciting partnership initiatives which have been developed to tackle these issues, such as generation of renewable energy and the setting-up of an energy supply company to sell energy at reduced rates with profits going towards improving energy efficiency of homes, creating valuable jobs and skills in the process.
Elizabeth Leighton from the Existing Homes Alliance explained the importance of improving the energy efficiency of existing houses in Scotland. Without substantial investment in this it will be impossible to meet target reductions in carbon emissions, and Fuel Poverty levels will remain at unacceptable levels. She was encouraged by Scottish Government ambitions to make this a National Infrastructure Priority, and suggested the target should be for all homes to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of Grade C or better.
Finally, Shona Stephen, Chief Executive of Queen’s Cross Housing Association in Glasgow, described some of the innovative energy efficiency measures being implemented in their properties. Techniques such as external and internal cladding have been used to reduce heat loss, while district heating schemes using low-carbon heat-pump technology bring greener and cheaper energy to Queen’s Cross residents. Shona emphasised, however, the vital on-going need for support and education to help their tenants to get the best out of their homes and heating systems – there was no point in simply investing in technology and expecting Fuel Poverty to disappear.
A lively audience discussion followed, with comments and questions to the panel before Sarah Boyack brought the event to a conclusion, remarking on the breadth of expertise that we had benefitted from, and the positive feeling that solutions were available and that there was a determination to make them work.
The findings from our investigations into Energy Issues and Fuel Poverty will form part of the Church and Society Council report to the General Assembly on Tuesday May 24.
Read the ful report in section 8 of the Church and Society Council Report to the General Assembly 2016