Energy Minister responds to pleas for fair energy prices

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Campaigners from Northern Scotland met with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey to urge him to look at the unfair charges imposed by utility companies which are contributing to residents of the North of Scotland having the highest levels of fuel poverty in the UK.

A delegation representing housing associations in the Highlands and Islands met with Ed Davey to highlight how local people are struggling with higher electricity prices than the rest of the UK, harsh climatic conditions and exorbitant heating oil prices in remote rural areas which are off the mains gas supply.

Households living in rural areas of North West Scotland are reportedly paying £1,000 more a year on energy bills than the rest of Scotland, leading some to self-disconnect due to high costs.

A recent survey found that 71% of Western Isles residents are living in fuel poverty compared to the 27% Scottish average.

Housing associations are calling on the government to end regional price levies which are leading to some residents only heating one room of their homes.

Despite being one of the coldest places to live in the UK, standard electricity prices cost 2p more a unit than most of the country and heating oil is delivered by just two or three suppliers with the cost varying by up to 10p a litre.

In addition, the campaigners wish to see the “Economy” tariffs on offer from the electricity companies reviewed to remove price differentials which severely disadvantage off-gas customers.

Speaking for the Highland and Islands Housing Associations, Mr Di Alexander, Chairman of Lochaber Housing Association, said: “We received a very fair and sympathetic hearing from the Minister and his team of senior advisors and the facts of our case were not found wanting. It seems that the Government’s room for manoeuvre on existing pricing difficulties is limited by legal and financial constraints previously given to the energy suppliers and the regulator, Ofgem.

“Our next ports of call will therefore be Ofgem and SSE.

“We will also press all political parties in the run up to the May 2015 general election to give a clear promise to bring the existing unfair and discriminatory energy pricing regime applying in the North of Scotland to a rapid and conclusive end.”