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Blog Post 5 February 2016

Scots’ fuel poverty partnership working well

Warmworks Scotland is a joint venture launched in September last year to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland. We talked to contract director Ross Armstrong about how the scheme is progressing.

With energy bills high, and much still to do for getting the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock up to scratch, fuel poverty has become a major concern across the UK. But what’s different in Scotland?

Armstrong explained: “Statistically, Scotland has a proportionately higher incidence of fuel poverty than the UK average. There are more households struggling to keep warm and pay the bills. In part, this is related to the colder climate, but there are other factors at play.

“Perhaps partly because of that, the Scottish Government is particularly interested in fuel poverty, and has always had a programme dedicated to it within energy efficiency plans as a whole. The Warmer Homes Scotland scheme (which is managed by Warmworks) falls under the umbrella of Home Energy Efficiency Programmes Scotland (HEEPS), which includes local authority schemes, a national energy efficiency drive and a loan scheme.”

Who’s getting help?

Callers to the Home Energy Scotland helpline are referred to Warmworks Scotland if they meet certain criteria, such as having low household income, poor levels of insulation or a disability.

Since 1 September, there have been over 3,000 referrals – while over 1,000 installations of energy efficiency home improvements are expected to be complete by the end of January. Sixty staff are working hard both out in the field carrying out inspections and EPC assessments, and office based, managing referrals and contractors.

So what motivates callers to make that initial contact, and what comes next?

Armstrong said: “The Scottish Government runs the marketing for the programme, and often those that respond are worried about the winter months, and just want to see if there is some help available for them. From there, we work with the customer through the journey.”

Big potential

A minimum of £16 million a year has been earmarked for the duration of the scheme. That represents the possibility of a minimum of around 4,000 households with fully completed energy efficiency home improvements each year, and there is the possibility of the pot being doubled if there is demand.

Armstrong said: “We’re going for a big impact, and I think it highlights that centrally-funded, demand-led energy efficiency programmes still have a place.

“In the rest of the UK there’s a reliance on supplier-led schemes like ECO. I’d say we’re much more accountable and transparent, and can really show just what impact we’re having on tackling fuel poverty. We can break that down to the number of households in certain circumstances we’re reaching, for example. I think that’s really important.”

An efficient and quality structure

Features of Warmworks Scotland that the rest of the UK might look at with interest is the fact that Warmworks has been set up as a joint partnership between the Energy Saving Trust, Everwarm and Changeworks and a range of sub-contractors that are actively involved in getting energy efficiency home improvements installed.

Armstrong explained: “We’ve got the input and experience of the Energy Saving Trust, the customer understanding of Changeworks and the massive installer capacity of Everwarm on board. The structure is straightforward. We’re delivering a single contract, and the partners want us to just get on with that.

“To carry out the work on the ground, we have 34 local SMEs covering the whole of Scotland, from the islands to the borders. We’ve got bigger companies to one or two-person outfits. They all want to grow with us, and crucially, they’ve all been through a comprehensive process to ensure they’re delivering to a really high standard. The quality of the supply chain is critical to our success.”

Getting the word out

There are still some areas that Armstrong would like to work on to take the scheme to the next level.

He added: “One of the challenges is building brand visibility – getting ourselves out there. We had a really good response from the Energy Action Scotland conference in November, proving that it’s all about finding the right audiences. But a bit more of an awareness raising drive is needed. There’s certainly plenty still to do – no-one’s getting bored just yet!”

To find out more about Warmer Homes Scotland, or to make an application, you can call Home Energy Scotland free on 0808 808 2282. Home Energy Scotland advisors are available on the phone Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, and on Saturday from 9am to 5pm.