Speaking in the House of Commons debate last night, SNP energy spokesperson Mike Weir MP said it is ‘utterly unacceptable’ that we have fuel poverty in an energy-rich nation like Scotland, especially given the schemes the Scottish Government has put in place to address it.
He told MPs: “The Scottish House Conditions Survey shows that 39.1% of all Scottish households are in fuel poverty.
“That is a horrendous figure – yet it would have been 11% if fuel prices had risen in line with inflation between 2002 and 2013, which demonstrates a fundamental failure of the UK regulated energy market.
Labour’s call for the UK-Government to fast-track laws giving the energy regulator new powers to force firms to cut prices – which was opposed by the government – was defeated by 305 votes to 228.
The 50% drop in the price of oil has revived the debate about living costs in general – and fuel-poverty in particular – putting pressure on petrol and energy firms to lower consumer rates. So far the only Big Six energy company to have cut its prices on the back of drooping oil and gas prices has been E.ON.
However, under the Smith Commission package of new powers for Holyrood – agreed by all major parties in Scotland – the Scottish Government and Parliament is to have democratic accountability and regulatory oversight of fuel-poverty, energy-efficiency, and fair energy markets. In addition, the UK energy market regulator, OFGEM will now have to publish its annual report to the Scottish Parliament, as well as Westminster.
In another part of the changing regulatory market for energy in Scotland, the UK Competition Markets Authority (CMA) – (formerly the Office of Fair Trading) has set up a regulatory monitoring office in Edinburgh.
As a result, Holyrood MSPs will have more say – and more chance to hold to account – major energy suppliers operating across UK markets – including Scotland – even though they may not be domiciled or registered in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has already called on Scottish Power, SSE, E-on, EDF, RWE/Npower, Centrica and Energy UK to ensure households and businesses benefit from the drop in wholesale prices.
“The recent falls in wholesale energy costs and oil prices have not been reflected in our energy bills, and if the companies are not prepared to positively react to these changes and pass them on to consumers, then they must be compelled to do so,” added Weir.
Smith Commission proposes devolution of energy powers to Scotland – Scottish Energy News http://goo.gl/Ha73s9