Scottish Energy Secretary urges UK Government to keep price guarantee

The Scottish Government has called for the UK Government to continue the energy price guarantee at its current rate after Ofgem revealed they would lower the energy price cap.

Ofgem announced on Monday that the energy price cap would be lowered from the current £4,279 per year to £3,280 for the average household.

But bills will still increase in April, as the UK Government’s energy price guarantee will become “less generous” as the £400 winter discount on bills comes to an end.

Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said the move by Ofgem strengthened the case for the UK Government to reverse its plan to scrap the energy price guarantee.

Cop26 debate
Michael Matheson has called for the UK Government to reduce household energy bills (Fraser Bremner/PA)

“This remains an incredibly unsettling time for many thousands of households.

“What matters now is that the UK Government urgently re-assesses the measures it has in place which, at present, would see the average domestic bill increasing from £2,500 to £3,000 from April 1 at the same time as its £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme is ended,” he said.

Mr Matheson said the increase will result in there being 980,000 households in Scotland in fuel poverty – an increase of 120,000.

“I call, once again, on the UK Government to provide additional, targeted support for vulnerable households who are struggling with their energy costs,” he added.

“The Scottish Government is continuing to do everything in our power to mitigate the impact of the energy price crisis on consumers, this includes doubling our Fuel Insecurity Fund to £20 million in the current financial year.

“But only long-term, sustained action is required to truly break the fuel poverty cycle.

“The key energy policy levers remain with the UK Government, who continue to fail to take the necessary steps – which only it can take – to ensure that households and businesses never experience this situation again.”

Conor Forbes, director of policy with Advice Direct Scotland urged anyone struggling with bills to seek advice from their supplier.

He said: “The important thing to remember is no one should struggle alone, and help is available.

“We would urge anyone struggling with energy costs to reach out to their supplier who may have a hardship fund that could help.

“Our service also provides free, practical advice on the support and assistance available, such as grants.

“Advisers can also help with understanding energy bills and make referrals to sources of support for those struggling to pay and ensure that households are claiming all the benefits they are entitled to.”

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey echoed Mr Matheson’s calls to not end the energy price guarantee and said the UK Government could “easily afford” to reduce energy bills in April.

Sir Ed said: “People are already struggling to afford their rents and mortgages, food shopping and bills.

“It is unforgivable that the Conservatives are choosing to push desperate families over the edge by hiking their energy bills by another £500.

“Ministers must listen to our calls for an energy rescue package to save families and businesses from this cost of living cliff edge, funded through a proper windfall tax.

Mr Matheson’s call was echoed by the head of an energy charity in Scotland as he appeared before a committee of MPs on Monday.

Frazer Scott, the chief executive of Energy Action Scotland, told the Scottish Affairs Committee the real cost of the energy crisis would be paid in lives lost.

“What I would like to see is a financial package of support that’s commensurate with the level of distress and detriment that’s being experienced across all our communities.

“I certainly don’t feel that the package as proposed for 2023-24 does recognise that.

“The price we’ll pay will be in the lives being lost and the health and wellbeing declines that will happen across our communities, and in particular our rural communities.”