Perth-based Scottish & Southern Energy – a FTSE-100 top plc – said the donation to Energy Action Scotland is ‘one of of a series that SSE has given so far this year to prominent charities in order to provide real and meaningful help to its most vulnerable customers.”
But Angus McCormack, Chairman of the Western Isles Poverty Action Group, commented: “SSE is to give £40,000 to ‘support Energy Action Scotland to raise awareness of the help on offer to those struggling to pay their energy bills.’ That will be £40,000 out of a profit for the year of £1.5 billion.
“Like all of SSE’s support for schemes of this nature, it is nothing more than window dressing.
“In the Highlands and Islands where the harsh weather, low incomes and hard to insulate houses mean that fuel poverty is endemic (71% of the households in the Outer Hebrides are in fuel poverty) – so throwing £40,000 at the problem is close to insulting.”
“SSE must act to eliminate the 2p surcharge they currently levy on their loyal consumers in the Highlands and Islands. Only radical action will alleviate fuel poverty. SSE should not delude themselves into believing that throwing paltry sums of money at worthy schemes addresses the problem.”
Donations to charities are tax deductible under UK company law.
A spokesman for SSE said: ‘The charity will publicise the help available from a range of trusted organisations, and produce materials to support frontline workers in housing, health, social care, welfare, benefits and energy efficiency, so that they can inform and help vulnerable individuals before they reach crisis point.’
So acute is the problem of fuel poverty in the Western Isles, that The Energy Advisory Service (TEAS) is holding a special action conference in Stornoway on 24 March 2015 – as featured in the Special Report – ‘Warm Homes & Fuel Poverty’ – by Scottish Energy News (see image, above, and link – below- to full report) **
SSE is sending to two senior managers as observers to this conference. Conference speakers include:
- Councillor Angus Campbell, Leader, Western Isles Council / CNES
- Norman Kerr, Energy Action Scotland
- Greg McCracken, Age Scotland
- Professors Sir John Hills and Anne Power, London School of Economics.
|Fuel Poverty – Ways Forward: Energy Advisory Service conference 24 March: Booking now:
Brian Whitington, Energy Officer at The Energy Advisory Services (TEAS) in the Western Isles, commented: “The Western Isles has the highest levels of fuel poverty anywhere in the UK.
“This alarming fact has been identified through findings of a survey which went to the 12,000 homes across Eilean Siar. Nearly 3,000 households completed the survey, which is statistically high as response levels.
“So we know what the problem is, where it is and in terms of the 71% who completed the survey who the actual people are.”
Meanwhile, Western Isles Council/ comhairle is setting up a community owned Energy Supply Company for the Outer Hebrides with the aim of reducing energy costs for island consumers – as reported previously by Scottish Energy News. (see also: http://www.scottishenergynews.com/tenders-western-isles-council-seeks-private-sector-partner-for-outer-hebrides-energy-supply-co/
Norman Kerr, Director of Energy Action Scotland, said: “Rural premiums on energy bills are undoubtedly a burden on those living in rural areas.
“However, there appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding that companies like SSE choose to add a premium to the bills of customers in the north of Scotland when in fact it is part of a distribution price control mechanism that applies to any supplier to that part of the country.
“Energy Action Scotland believes that the system should be reviewed and this needs to be done by the UK Parliament.
“The recent donation of £40,000 to Energy Action Scotland from SSE was as a result of a fine imposed on SSE by the regulator Ofgem and does not displace wider and on-going moves to reduce the energy bills of consumers.”