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Parliamentary Debates and Questions

S5W-16982: Jamie Greene (West Scotland)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 4 June 2018

To ask the Scottish Government what action it will take to tackle rising energy costs, in light of reports that all of the big six energy providers have now increased prices.

Answered by: Paul Wheelhouse 18 June 2018

The regulation of energy markets for electricity and gas are matters that remain reserved under the Scotland Act (1998). These are therefore matters for which UK Ministers are responsible.

However, Scottish Ministers take great interest in the issue, given our locus on tackling fuel poverty. Clearly, energy bills remain a huge concern for many consumers in Scotland and the steep price rises we have seen across the market, including the six largest suppliers will be worrying for many households. The UK Government has failed to provide a competitive market that puts consumers’ needs and interests at its heart. This is why the Scottish Government has committed – through the Scottish Energy Strategy – to produce an action plan which puts in place actions to engage and protect Scottish energy consumers both today and during the energy transition. Aligned with this, we will also introduce a Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill by summer and publish a Draft Fuel Poverty Strategy alongside it, reconfirming our commitment to taking action to address fuel poverty.

As stated above, the cost of energy is outwith the powers of the Scottish Government, but by ensuring consumers have advice and support on switching to the best offer available, we aim to help them reduce costs. We are working to ensure that Scottish consumers are informed, engaged and empowered as the energy system evolves and that is why in January we reconvened the Scottish Energy Summit to address issues affecting vulnerable Scottish energy users. This builds on our work to promote consumer engagement in the energy market:

We supported a partnership between Home Energy Scotland and the social enterprise Citrus Energy to promote impartial tariff-switching.We backed the launch of Our Power in 2016 with £2.5 million Scottish Government investment and reaffirmed that support with a further investment of £3.5m in 2017. When launched it was the first independent and fully licensed energy supply company registered as a non-profit distributing organisation owned by its members. This ground breaking company is making a real difference to thousands of low income households who are currently disadvantaged in the energy market and struggling to pay their billsWe ran a pilot to examine how to extend the benefits of competition to vulnerable and disengaged consumers – including offline customers – through face to face advice and support to switch.We have committed to introducing financial health checks to address the poverty premium, including helping people switch to the lowest tariffs.We continue to engage with Ofgem on the database of disengaged customers and safeguard tariff to ensure Scottish consumers get positive outcomes.

In May 2018 we responded to Energy UK's Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances and remain committed to working with the Commission to ensure better outcomes for all Scottish energy consumers.