Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed a an energy package form the Scottish Government which could help reduce fuel bill and increase energy efficacy.
The Energy Assistance Package which was announced by Communities Minister Alex Neil will see £60 million per year (30% more than the original fuel budget ) aimed at assisting the most vulnerable members of society, pensioners and low income families.
The scheme will take effect on 6th April this year and will include benefit and tax credit and tariff checks to ensure that residents are receiving the correct income and are paying the correct bill, as well as providing central heating and insulation.
Mr Gibson said…
"This announcement shows that the SNP Scottish Government is committed to tackling fuel poverty throughout the Country. Their actions will some way towards helping people of the Highlands and Islands."
"This scheme from the Scottish Government, which follows on from the recommendations of the Scottish Fuel Poverty, will be good news in the current economic crisis. Fuel Poverty in the Highlands and Islands is keenly felt so help with lowering the bills will be welcome."
Info on new scheme:
The Energy Assistance Package is an holistic package to help maximise incomes, reduce fuel bills and improve the energy efficiency of homes. It will be introduced in April 2009 and will replace the Central Heating and Warm Deal programmes.
It has four stages:
1. An initial energy audit available to anyone who phones the Energy Savings Scotland Advice Centre (ESSAC) network and identifies those at risk of fuel poverty who continue to Stage 2.
2. Help with improving incomes and reducing energy bills.
3. A package of standard insulation measures (cavity wall and loft insulation), as part of the energy companies' obligation under the Carbon Emission Reduction Target (CERT).
4. More enhanced energy efficiency measures (such as heating systems including renewable systems, and insulation measures for hard to insulate homes for those who are fuel poor).
Stages 1 to 3 are widely available and Stage 4, as recommended by the forum, will be focused on homes with very poor energy efficiency and lived in by those households most vulnerable to fuel poverty.
Stage 1: Anyone can phone for energy efficiency advice from ESSAC.
Stage 2: All those vulnerable to fuel poverty will be offered further help with improving incomes and reducing energy bills
Stage 3: All those vulnerable to fuel poverty will be provided standard insulation measures (cavity and loft insulation, wherever the home can take these). These will be provided free to all those on income-related benefits or aged over 70, and at a subsidised rate to others.
Stage 4: Help is available to the following groups in private sector homes:
* all pensioner households who have never had central heating installed;
* pensioners in energy-inefficient homes who are in receipt of the Guarantee Element of Pension Credit or are aged 75 or over;
* low-income families in energy-inefficient homes with a child under five or a disabled child under 16; and for the first time
* those living permanently in mobile homes.
'Low income' is defined as on income support, maximum child tax credit or guarantee element of pension credit.
'Energy inefficient homes' are defined as those where an energy audit identifies that the dwelling has a performance rating of F or G.
Who will deliver the package?
The package builds on the existing energy efficiency advice network and will be delivered in partnership with existing advice providers, energy companies and the Scottish Government. To ensure a smooth transition to the new package, Scottish Gas will act as managing agent for Stage 4 during 2009/10. Its current contract to manage the existing programmes is being extended by a year to March 2010 to deliver this.