Scottish government tackle fuel poverty

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Scotland’s six leading energy providers pledged to help vulnerable customers transfer to their most cost-saving tariff.

Cabinet Secretaries John Swinney and Alex Neil announced the move after meeting the energy giants and consumer groups to discuss measures to help customers struggling with their energy bills.

Areas of agreement include:

  • There is a need to improve communication to customers to increase simplicity, clarity and transparency. Ofgem’s Retail Market Review will play a key role in ensuring that this happens and should take into account particular circumstances in Scotland
  • Consumer Focus Scotland will facilitate discussions aimed at improving how suppliers can engage better with vulnerable customers
  • Further to this, Consumer Focus Scotland will facilitate discussions between energy companies, COSLA, SOLACE and voluntary organisations on how to reach the most vulnerable customers
  • The Fuel Poverty Forum will look at the how Local Authorities fuel poverty initiatives interact with Scottish Government’s schemes in its review of fuel poverty strategy
  • The Scottish Government will work with the UK Government to ensure that Energy Company Obligation and Green Deal can work on an area basis given the success of the Universal Home Insulation Scheme

Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney said:

“Reaching agreement marks a considerable step towards helping those in our communities most in need.  I am delighted that we are working together with the energy companies, consumer groups and others to bring about real benefit to customers most in need.

“As we head into winter, these actions will immediately help those households across Scotland facing the greatest pressure because of the spiralling costs of heating their homes.”

Mr Swinney’s colleague, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil called the situation where we have one million households in fuel poverty a “disgrace” in an energy rich country and added:

“These practical, immediate actions will help address rising energy costs leaving more money in the purses of those most in need.

“We remain committed to eradicating fuel poverty where possible and today’s agreement to work in partnership is a substantial step towards that goal.”

Douglas Sinclair, Chair of Consumer Focus Scotland welcomed the initiative and said:

“This meeting is a step in the right direction but it quickly needs to become a march in the right direction in the light of the extreme hardship being faced now, on a daily basis, by thousands of Scottish families.

“The meeting signals a pledge to put the needs of consumers at the heart of the energy debate – but this needs to continue and be the driving force for radical change in the energy market.

“And it goes without saying that energy companies must rebuild the trust of the nation by showing they are listening and responding to people’s concerns.”

Attendees at the meeting on 15th November included representatives from the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum, Consumer Focus Scotland, Ofgem, Scottish Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power, SSE and Citizens Advice Scotland.

Customers are assessed on an individual basis and can be deemed vulnerable for reasons of age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity, where they are unable to safeguard their personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household.

The Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) requires all domestic energy suppliers with a customer base in excess of 50,000 customers to make savings in the amount of CO2 emitted by householders. Suppliers meet this target by promoting the uptake of energy efficiency and low carbon solutions to households thereby assisting them to reduce the carbon footprint of their homes.

CESP (Community Energy Saving Programme) is an obligation on energy suppliers and electricity generators. It targets households, in areas of low income, to improve energy efficiency standards and reduce fuel bills.

Both CERT and CESP can be delivered anywhere in Great Britain and are designed with flexibility in mind to reduce the cost of delivering these obligations and any resulting impact these costs may have on household energy bills. CERT and CESP will be replaced at the end of 2012 by the Energy Company Obligation (ECO)