One in eight Scots cannot afford energy bills

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About one in eight Scots say her cost of their energy bills are “unaffordable” and are turning away from the “big six” companies in order to get a cheaper deal, new research has found.

It has prompted calls for action from governments to ensure energy is affordable for everyone in Scotland.

One in eight Scots cannot afford energy bills

One in eight Scots cannot afford energy bills

A survey of 3,505 people by Citizen’s Advice Scotland (CAS) found 12 per cent consider energy prices too expensive, with increasing numbers of consumers switching to smaller, cheaper suppliers.

More than a quarter of respondents (26 per cent) said they switched their energy supplier in 2019, up from 21 per cent when CAS began its reports on the state of the energy market in 2017.

Half of all those who switched providers used a price comparison website, resulting in just 16 per cent opting for any of the so-called big six energy companies.

Although British Gas retains the largest proportion of customers at 18 per cent, followed by ScottishPower at 16 per cent and SSE at 15 per cent, the percentage of people using one of

Scotland’s six largest companies fell from 75 to 67 per cent between 2017 and 2019.

Dr Jamie Stewart from CAS said: “This major report gives us a really useful insight into the state of the energy market in Scotland which policymakers in government and industry may wish to consider.

“It’s notable that more than one in ten consumers feel their bills are unaffordable. Our report highlights the key divide, with some appearing to manage the cost of energy while a significant proportion of society continue to struggle.

“We strongly believe that more needs to be done to ensure that the essential service of energy is affordable for everyone in Scotland.”

The report also found fewer Scots are using electricity to heat their homes, with a shift to gas – the most popular primary source of heat, accounting for 73 per cent of homes.

Use of electric heating as the primary source of heating was highest in Glasgow, where 22 per cent of respondents use it, and North-east Scotland, where 20 per cent reported it as their primary heat source.

Dr Stewart added: “The small fall in people using electricity and the increase in gas usage should also be considered carefully by policymakers.

“As mains gas remains the cheapest way to heat homes for most people, policymakers will have to make tough decisions about how we decarbonise household heating and how to support people with the associated costs.”

Almost half of consumers could qualify for extra support with their energy supply through the priority service register.