Yesterday the Expert Commission on Energy Regulation published its report on energy regulation in an independent Scotland. It included recommendations on tackling fuel poverty in Scotland. The fuel poverty charity Energy Action Scotland gives its reaction to some of the key points the report raises.
“The Commission has stated that the target of eradicating fuel poverty by 2016 – which is in fact a statutory duty – won’t be met and we agree with this view. It is imperative that a new focus and strategic direction are developed in order to set a new target as soon as possible.”
Another recommendation in the report is for the use of social security information and existing information on vulnerable consumers to deal with fuel poverty.
“Some data sharing between the DWP and the energy companies is already in place to establish who is on a low income and claiming certain benefits. We agree that having more of this data sharing – as long as it is sensitively handled – is a good way forward. It has always been and remains a challenge to identify the people who need help the most.”
Expanding on the use of data already held on consumers, the Commission also believes that the forthcoming changeover to smart meters will provide a further source of information on who is struggling with energy costs.
“Smart meters will help people to have a better understanding of their fuel bills and energy use and do away with need for estimated bills.
“But this will only happen if this major technical changeover comes with significant support in terms of education and information for consumers and especially for the vulnerable and those who are already digitally-challenged.”
The report suggests that certain social policy costs should be removed from domestic bills and funded from general taxation.
On this point, Kerr said:
“Currently social obligations are paid for by consumers on their energy bills and this is a regressive, unfair way method of funding. We agree that it is fairer to pay for social support through general taxation as this reflects ability to pay.
“However, there needs to be absolute commitment to ring-fencing this funding for the purposes of tackling fuel poverty because otherwise it can vary with different governments and the uncertainties of their budget-setting.”