Press Release - GCU experts give a lukewarm response to the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty Act

GCU experts give a lukewarm response to the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty Act 

A team of researchers led by Dr Keith Baker, a Researcher at the Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) Centre, co-founder of the Energy Poverty Research initiative (EPRi), and a member of Common Weal, has cautiously welcomed the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Act 2019 [1], which was laid before the Scottish Parliament on September 5th and came into force on September 19th.
The Act requires the Scottish Government to account for the higher costs of living for households in “remote rural areas”, “remote small towns” and “island areas” as part of the new Scottish definition of fuel poverty, based on research published by the team [2,3,4,5]. The team also welcomed the introduction of the Minimum Income Standard measure of poverty.

However, the team also criticised the Act, which pushes back the date by which the Scottish Government aims to have largely eliminated fuel poverty from 2016 to 2040, for lacking in ambition. Whilst the Scottish Government’s full plans for tackling fuel poverty will be detailed in the forthcoming Fuel Poverty Strategy, they also stressed that the new Act does little to reflect evidence that shows more holistic and people-centred, ‘folk first’ approaches are needed for supporting fuel poor and otherwise vulnerable householders [2,6,7].

Dr Keith Baker said, “The Fuel Poverty Act has been a long time in the making, and whilst we are very happy to see that the Scottish Government has taken on board the evidence for the higher costs of living and heating homes in rural and island areas, there are other aspects of the problem, such as access to services, that remain to be fully addressed and accounted for. Our work has shown how and why fuel poverty is not simply a product of low incomes and high household costs, but is a highly complex condition that is best addressed by ensuring householders have access to empathetic face-to-face and in-home support from trusted, locally-based organisations. Without such a shift in focus, which must include ring-fenced funding for local authorities to coordinate and deliver such support services, the new targets would appear to be both unambitious and unrealistic”.  

Dr Ron Mould, a former PhD student at the BEAM Centre, a co-founder of EPRi, and a member of Common Weal said, “Over the past few years we have worked hard, examined and questioned many assumptions that are prevalent in the common understandings of fuel poverty and the fuel poor.  Where appropriate we have challenged assumptions and continue to do so.  As people continue to work on assumptions that in reality are not favouring those most in need, and are actually disadvantaging them, we will continue to push for folk first policy solutions that place people at their heart, not simply the bricks and mortar they call home.” 

Dr Keith Baker
T. +44 (0) 7884125540

[1] Available at:
[2] Baker, K.J., Mould, R., & Restrick, S., 2018. Rethink fuel poverty as a complex problem. Nature Energy, 2nd July 2018. DOI: Available at:  
[3] Mould, R., & Baker, K.J., 2017. Uncovering hidden geographies and socio-economic influences on fuel poverty using household fuel spend data: A meso-scale study in Scotland. Indoor and Built Environment, Vol. 20, (7), 1-23, DOI: 10.1177/1420326X17707326. Open access pre-publication version at:
[4] Baker, K.J., Mould, R., & Restrick, S., 2016. Proiseact Spéird – The Spéird Project: Understanding influences on fuel poverty in rural and island Scotland. Final report for the Eaga Charitable Trust, November 2016. Available at:
[5] Mould, R., Baker, K.J., & Emmanuel, R., 2014. Behind the Definition of Fuel Poverty: Understanding differences between the Fuel Spend of Rural and Urban Homes. Queens Political Review, Vol. II, 2014, Issue 2, pp. 7-24.
[6] Baker, K.J., Mould, R., Stewart, F., Restrick, S., Melone, H., & Atterson, B., 2019. Never try and face the journey alone: Exploring the face-to-face advocacy needs of fuel poor and vulnerable householders. Energy Research and Social Science, Vol. 59, (2019) pp. 210-219. Pre-pub version at: Shareable link to published version:
[7] Mould, R., & Baker, K.J., 2017. Documenting fuel poverty from the householders’ perspective. Energy Research and Social Science, 31, (2017), pp.21–31. Open access pre-publication version available at: