Reduction in fuel costs the only answer

Fuel poverty is generally caused by three main factors – low income, energy inefficient housing, and fuel costs.

There are two formal definitions banded about for “fuel poverty”, one which would mean we had [in 2019] 1,000 households living in fuel poverty, and another definition that suggests this figure is more like 3,000.

We are now told that currently 53 per cent [5,300] of the households in Shetland are living in fuel poverty – the truth of the matter is we don’t actually know  – it’s all a guess.

This figure is based on generalised data collected between 2017 and 2019, and a revised guess of what the effects of Brexit, Covid, the cost of living and energy crisis, and the war in Ukraine may have had.

The suggestion by many is that fuel poverty can be eliminated by addressing ‘energy inefficient homes’ by upgrading insulation – while this will help it will not alleviate the issue.

Households could be living in energy efficient homes, but still live in fuel poverty because they have a low income – obviously upgrading insulation will not help these households.

Upgrading insulation and making a house energy efficient is not the same thing. In addition to upgrading insulation the air tightness of the building, efficiency of the existing heating and hot water systems, and the correct ventilation strategy all have to be considered and addressed.

Taking a notional estimate (guess) of 5,000 houses that needed to be made energy efficient, along with a conservative average notional estimated (guess) spend on each house of say £15,000 would mean the likely cost £75M.

How long would it take to do the work? – I estimate it could take 20 to 30 years.

Therefore, what are the options?

  • Low income – is it realistic to consider that households can increase their income – this is not a quick fix!
  • Energy inefficient housing – as demonstrated above – as demonstrated – this is not a quick fix!
  • Fuel costs – finding a way of reducing fuel costs – our only hope!

People urgently need help and now – the only realistic “quick fix option” is to find a way of reducing fuel costs.

Stewart Douglas
Election candidate for the Shetland South ward


The full list of candidates standing for May’s election can be found here.

Shetland News