Comhairle efforts to stop Western Isles residents having to pay an electricity surcharge have been met with a response by Scottish and Southern Energy.
SSE have made it clear that they are working towards a national rate for Stornoway customers.
Following Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader Angus Campbell’s meeting with SSE last month about the additional electricity costs charged to Western Isles residents, SSE’s Chief Executive, Alistair Phillips-Davies, has written to Councillor Campbell making the case for ‘national’ pricing and outlining the help SSE is providing to tackle fuel poverty in the Western Isles.
The letter, which is available to be read on SSE’s website, said: “SSE Scottish Hydro have already been working with Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) on how to maximise assistance to customers of SSE in fuel poverty who live on the Western Isles.
“Whilst SSE Scottish Hydro is one of a number of energy suppliers with customers on the islands we recognise that we do have many customers there and are also acutely aware of the number of customers on the islands who are struggling with their energy bills.”
The letter outlines SSE’s work towards helping those in fuel poverty in the Western Isles, including a targeted debt relief project for SSE Scottish Hydro’s vulnerable customers, and funding a full time staff employee to help TIG deliver bespoke energy efficiency advice to households in the Western Isles suffering from fuel poverty.
The letter continued: “This combined package of additional measures will help those customers who are in real need of assistance with their energy bills. We are delighted to be working with TIG on this and we are meeting with them again next week to finalise the package.”
The letter summarises the need for the electricity surcharge, which is paid by customers in the north of Scotland, as well as Merseyside and North Wales, and is set due to geographical location.
The reason for this is due to the different costs associated with distributing electricity in these particular regions. The regional companies that undertake electricity transmission and distribution are legally separate from those energy suppliers like SSE to which customers pay their bills. They are economically-regulated and the amount of revenue they can earn from the networks, and the amount of investment they are able to make in them, is determined by Ofgem.
Because of the regional geography, and the low population density, it costs significantly more to operate, maintain and invest in the electricity distribution network in the north of Scotland.
The letter continues: “For some time now, we have been encouraging the UK government, Ofgem and the Competition and Markets Authority to adopt ‘national pricing’ across the Great Britain market, so that the networks company costs for everyone in Scotland, England and Wales are combined and shared equally by all of the customers in the Great Britain market.
“Under this arrangement, customers in Stornoway, Stranraer, Sheffield and Swansea would pay the same for electricity transportation.”
Angus Campbell said: “The steps being taken by SSE in working with TIG are welcome but quite simply customers in the Highlands and Islands are paying a higher unit rate for their electricity.
“In an area with the highest levels of fuel poverty that cannot be right and I would repeat the call that SSE should reduce their tariff.
“SSE claim that they are in favour of universal charges across the country but that will take time to achieve and in the meantime their customers here are paying over the odds and many people are struggling to heat their homes.”