Off Gas Grid Fuel Poverty – 16 February 2023


There’s a clear correlation between being off the gas grid and facing fuel poverty. The statistics are as stark, as the plight of many’ s cruel. It’s worse in Scotland at 19%, than in Britain as a whole, or in England and Wales where in both it’s 15%. That exclusion worsens the fuel poverty position in Scotland already lumbered with a colder climate and higher rates of fuel poverty. 

What adds to the existing absurdity of an Energy Rich Scotland seeing Scots in fuel poverty’s that much, if not most, of the UK’s natural gas is off our shores. A large percentage of it also lands at St Fergus in Aberdeenshire, where the site’s guarded by the MoD police, such is its importance.

Yet, the bounty that came into many homes when discovered in the 1960s has passed by those areas closest to the gas fields. Orkney and Shetland despite their critical importance to the sector are 100% of the grid. Other northern parts are likewise deprived with Western Isles at 88%, Highlands at 61% and Argyll and Bute at 56%. Even Aberdeenshire despite the infrastructure at and from St Fergus stands at 42%.

Rural areas further south such as Dumfries and Galloway at 39% off grid or the Borders at 34% are also denied access to gas. It’s not just quaint country cottages but large towns in both northern and southern Scotland. 

That amounts to over 500,000 households across Scotland and being off the grid means that they’re often dependent, especially in rural areas, on unregulated fuels such as heating oil, LNG or biomass all of which have risen even more than the exorbitant hikes in gas and electricity. For others and especially in urban areas it means they’re often left using more expensive electric heating systems, again compounding their plight.

That certainly seems to be the case in Glasgow and Dundee where the percentage of households of grid nears 20%. Much of that can be explained by multi story flats where gas can’t be supplied. But many of those dwellings were built before insulation standards improved and have older electric heating systems which are neither cheap nor particularly effective.

The correlation’s shown when you compare that off grid data with the fuel poverty rates and it’s stark. The fuel poverty statistics were compiled in 2019 before the energy crisis kicked in. But those areas already worst affected have just seen their agony increased. The highest rates in Scotland were in the Highlands, the Western Isles and Argyll. Other areas all narrated above are also all there.

So, what should be done as clearly we are trying to decarbonise and ultimately move away from gas? Well, regulating those fuels currently left to the open market would be a start. The Tories know there’s an issue there but just haven’t done anything.

Additional resource to those areas to improve insulation and fit newer and more efficient heating systems’ another no brainer. Not only does that provide help for those suffering in this energy crisis but it additionally creates badly needed employment. Finally, additional resource to support those suffering this additional burden’s also required.

An energy rich nation shouldn’t see so many of its citizens deprived.