Clarity needed on energy consumption

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Andy Kerr (Friends of The Scotsman, 4 November) calls for greater transparency in the energy debate and yet ­succeeds in muddying the ­waters on consumption.

He is right to say that “the biggest energy source we require is for heating water and space in our homes”. He then goes on to say that “the smallest component of our energy use, and the one typically with the lowest cost in any one year, is electricity”.

This sweeping statement is simply not true for many householders. A great many houses are all-electric. They may be in urban estates that were designed that way, or may be in rural areas which are off the gas grid and where there would be significant extra transport charges if they were to install oil heating.

I recently heard blocks of flats described as “ice boxes” because of poor insulation and there are many other homes in Scotland which ­cannot benefit from the easy option of cavity-wall insulation to improve energy ­efficiency.

The debate on energy pricing should fundamentally be as much about ways of improving our housing stock. Better insulation keeps costs down and ensures energy is used more efficiently and less of it is needed.

The continual use of averages is also unhelpful in the debate. Scottish consumers in general have to use more energy than the English or the Welsh because the climate here is colder, and often windier. The pie chart on our bills showing the percentages going to transport electricity to us is wrong because higher charges are levied in half of Scotland. We have at last persuaded the energy companies to publish their price rises ­according to areas served. Thus, SSE increased its charges by 7 per cent in the ScottishPower distribution area but by 9.6 per cent in the Hydro Board area. Its 8.2 per cent average increase figure is often unhelpful but many organisations from government to the media keep using it.

This pattern of increases differing by geographical area has been going on for some years due to the way the ­industry was privatised. There is a continually widening gap leading effectively to an electricity surcharge on consumers in the north and west of Scotland.

Have the costs of the serious transmission damage in Kintyre and Arran in March this year been added to Hydro Board area bills or will they be shared more widely?

And will an independent Scotland be able to remove such regional inequalities?

RJ Ardern

Southside Road

Inverness