Representatives from the ‘Big Six’ energy companies have attended a summit looking at ways to help low income households living in fuel poverty and facing a ‘poverty premium’ of paying more for their energy.
Energy companies were invited to the meeting, chaired by the equalities secretary Angela Constance with energy minister Paul Wheelhouse, to discuss and identify further actions they could take that will make a material and important difference to low income families in Scotland. Constance also used the opportunity to discuss two recently published independent reports looking at fuel poverty in Scotland.
The reports, to which the government will formally respond next year, made over 100 recommendations, including two key recommendations for energy companies on energy costs. The recommendations urged energy companies to launch a proactive engagement campaign to guide customers on restricted meters through an assessment of their heating needs and ensure they are transferred to the cheapest and most appropriate deal for their needs.
Specific measures to support customers in rural and off-gas grid areas who suffer from higher energy prices than the rest of Scotland were also identified. Speaking afterwards Constance said: “Today’s meeting was a good start on the road to fairer energy costs and I am pleased there was collective agreement from all the energy companies round the table to explore ways in which they can achieve this. Tackling poverty, including fuel poverty and reducing the inequalities that exist in our society is an absolute priority for me. This requires action to increase incomes as well as driving down the extra costs that low income families in particular often face. We want to effectively tackle this poverty premium in the energy market and ensure that all consumers are paying a fair price for their energy and issues such as consumer debt are managed fairly.
“There are many good examples out there from energy companies helping those struggling with fuels bills and I would like to see this best practice replicated across the whole industry – the bottom line is they have the means and the opportunity to really make a difference and after today’s meeting I believe the appetite to do so is there too. The two recommendations from the independent fuel poverty reports outline clear actions by the energy companies that will provide a good start to addressing the inequalities experienced in the energy market. By taking steps to ensure people are on the right deals and taking action to support those in rural Scotland we can start to make the progress that has been badly needed for some time. We will work with the industry as they seek to do this.”