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Tackling Fuel Poverty and Increasing Energy Efficiency of Homes



As part of Scotland's Climate Week, CalMac asked one of the local causes supported by our CalMac Community Fund, ALIenergy (Argyll, Lomond and the Islands Energy Agency), to tell us more about its work to reduce fuel poverty and increase efficiency of homes across the west of Scotland.

ALIenergy, based in Oban, was delighted to receive an award from the CalMac Community Fund to assist its programme to guide and support the wellbeing of its advisors, following the COVID-19 pandemic. This enabled the organisation to continue its Affordable Warmth Service, providing advice, support and mentoring to people living in Argyll and Bute who are experiencing fuel poverty.

Due to the energy crisis, ALIenergy's team of Affordable Warmth Advisors are in high demand, with fuel poverty now thought to be affecting the majority of households right across huge areas of the north and west of Scotland.

There are reasons why fuel poverty levels are so high in rural areas; the weather is cold and dark and housing may not be well insulated. Rural areas tend to have elderly demographics, low average incomes, and crucially, a lack of mains gas. Electric heating is around three times more expensive per unit than gas, which will see homes with electric heating particularly hard hit this winter.

ALIenergy's Manager, Dr Lynda Mitchell, tells us: "Many people will not have experienced the full horrors of the April 54% price rise yet, as they have kept their heating off over the summer, and the next price rise of a further 26.8% is now almost upon us. The average annual energy cost in these parts is far above the UK average, which is calculated assuming gas central heating and a warmer climate further south. The cumulative effect of the two price rises in April and October will hit people very hard when (if) they turn on their heating this autumn. Many people are in serious danger of ill health and even early death from living in underheated, cold, damp housing."

ALIenergy's advisors have been working for over 20 years to alleviate fuel poverty. There has been a massive increase in client calls, seeking crisis intervention funding accessed by ALIenergy on behalf of clients, and referrals to the Scottish Government funded heating and insulation grants. ALIenergy advisors can access crisis interventions including prepayment meter vouchers, bulk fuel deliveries, energy debt relief, assistance with ongoing costs, and free white goods including fridges, freezers, cookers and washing machines. Alongside these immediate client gains, advice is offered on a range of topics designed to save money and increase resilience to fuel poverty in the longer term.

As well as saving money, interventions to increase the efficiency of home heating and insulation will also result in reduced carbon emissions. This is through reducing the need for as much heating by reducing heat waste, or by switching to renewable energy sources. For example, some households are eligible for Scottish Government funding to replace old standard electric heating or storage heaters with modern electric heat pumps, which can be much cheaper to run. To find out more, please visit the ALIenergy or call 01631 565 183.

The CalMac Community Fund is currently open until 6 January 2023 for new applications. Non-profit organisations can apply for an award between £500 - £2,000. This year, the Fund would like to support groups and projects working to tackle the following key themes: 

  • Reducing social isolation 

  • Improving health and wellbeing 

  • Addressing issues related to poverty, especially in relation to the cost-of-living crisis. 

  • Local and community transport. 

For more information, please visit the CalMac Community Fund page.

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