Emma Roddick MSP: New Energy Price Cap “will hit already struggling households with higher standing charges.”

head and shoulders image of Emma Roddick giving a speech in the Scottish Parliament

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person that looked on with incredulity as Scottish Tory MP Andrew Bowie, in his UK energy minister role, attempted to put a positive spin on the new energy price cap figures for October to December 2023, which will hit already struggling households with higher standing charges.

There was no good news for the many households across the Highlands and Islands region that I represent that have no access to mains gas, with many relying on electric heating to keep warm.

It is difficult to see how some of Mr Bowie’s Tory colleagues who represent the same Highlands and Islands households can share his positive view of a scenario that will make folk in their area worse off this winter.

Far from being positive, the reality is that folk without access to mains gas will face higher bills than last year if they use the same amount of electricity, due to the absence of the £400 UK Energy Bills Support Scheme and the smaller drop in electricity prices compared to gas.

Essentially, due to the difference in how prices have come down, electric heating households will spend more to purchase a third less energy than the typical dual fuel consumption used to illustrate the price cap.

If you are on a dual fuel tariff then the removal of the £400 support still leaves you better off than last winter, but if you are an electric heating customer you could be over £150 worse off. The bottom line is that many households in Orkney and across the Highlands and Islands face much higher bills than the £1923 figure being given as the price cap average. This is the inequity built into the broken UK energy system.

This has implications for how much support electric heating households will require to replace that missing UK government support to stop them having to ration their energy usage even more this winter. The latest evidence from research into energy rationing in Scotland shows that self-rationing is more prevalent in rural households.

There is help out there though. The Scottish Government has tripled the Fuel Insecurity Fund to £30 million in a bid to mitigate the worst impacts of the UK’s broken energy system. As part of that, organisations like THAW Orkney, who I met during my recess visit, have access to the Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund. This is helping write off energy debt for folk ahead of winter. This will be crucial to ensure that households don’t end up deeper in debt and hopefully reduce the need for rationing.

But it shouldn’t be like this.

To have folk in Orkney able to look out their windows and see turbines generating cheap electricity and yet have the price of the kilowatts that heat their homes tied to the price of entirely absent gas must be the ultimate illustration of unfairness.

It is time that Scotland had the powers as well as the energy. Independence can make that a reality.

This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.

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