Green levy on energy not even-handed

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It was interesting to see ­Energy Secretary Ed Davey calling the eco levies on power bills “green taxes” (your report, 15 October).

The essence of taxation is that it takes account of a taxpayer’s ability to pay. This is not the case with the current eco levies which the government changed from a per-­consumer base to a per- consumption base.

This was an attempt to reduce energy use but takes no account of user needs.

In Scotland we have a much colder and windier climate than London realises. We need to have the heating on for many more weeks and months of the year than people down south.

Distances are greater and the population sparser in much of the former Hydro Board area such that privatisation has meant that this area (which includes Argyll and the cities of Dundee and ­Aberdeen) now has to pay almost 20 per cent extra on the distribution aspect of the bill.

The recent SSE price increase was 9.64 per cent in the Hydro area and 7 per cent in the south of Scotland. Homes that are off the gas grid and all electric in the north are being really hit hard. Switching to another supplier is problematic for those on SSE’s unique and previously popular Total Heating Total Control tariff.

The basic problem is the huge number of homes now in fuel poverty. The government is fond of portraying its policies as being “fair”. A ­fairer system of electricity pricing needs to be devised with urgency.

Targeting more help with improving the insulation of the harder to heat homes would tackle one of the root causes of the problem, but it will take time and money to bring all housing stock up to a reasonable standard.

The measure that would bring the most immediately beneficial results would be for Mr Davey to convince the Treasury that these “green taxes” should be a part of general taxation, spread more widely.

This would be a “fairer” way of distributing the costs for most people, although any possible displacement effects on other government expenditure would have to be carefully considered.

RJ Ardern

Southside Road

Inverness

SSE has increased its prices by 8.2 per cent and appears to have abolished no standing charges on all tariffs. I own a small outbuilding beside my house with its own electricity supply and meter but my annual consumption is less than £1 per annum with no standing charge.

However, from November I will have to pay one which will increase my annual cost to almost £100.

I cannot find any supplier nor any tariff without a standing charge.

It strikes me that there must be thousands of second home owners who now find themselves in a similar position with no choice but to pay these standing charges.

Peter R Ferguson

Main Street

Lower Largo, Fife

In Tom Ballantine’s letter (15 October), he states that figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) suggest government environmental and social taxes are responsible for about 9 per cent of the average dual fuel household gas and electricity bill.

Since February 2013 Scottish Gas has sent me a graphic breakdown on both gas and electricity bills, showing I have been charged 15 per cent for environmental and social tax on my electricity bill, and 4 per cent for environmental and social tax on my gas bill.

That’s a total of 19 per cent in “green taxes”. These figures do not seem to bear out what the DECC suggests; or is my “dual fuel” supplier applying higher taxes than the government recommends.

Is this really a price worth paying?

R Clark

Johns Road

Eyemouth, Berwickshire

Tom Ballantine implies that fossil fuels receive subsidies. This claim originated on green websites some months back and was based on the fact that electricity from fossil fuels attracts only 5 per cent VAT.

All the necessities of life for the consumer – water, basic food stuffs, domestic gas and electricity – attract zero or 5 per cent VAT rates instead of 20 per cent.

But the same 5 per cent VAT rate applies to electricity generated by wind turbines, solar power or combined heat and power, as it does to electricity generated by coal, gas or nuclear when any are used for domestic consumption.

The business rate for all forms of electricity is 20 per cent VAT.

There is an enormous difference between something you have never been charged for and a subsidy that is added to your electricity bill as a consumer to pay landowners and wind farm companies for expensive wind-generated electricity.

(Prof) Tony Trewavas

Scientific Alliance Scotland

North St David Street

Edinburgh