FABIANI CALLS FOR ASSURANCES: ELDERLY AND VULNERABLE MUST NOT BE HIT WITH HIGHER BILLS
SNP MSP Linda Fabiani has today called for assurances from the UK government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that Scotland’s older people will not be penalised with higher energy bills due to the roll out of smart meters.
The DECC want homes and small businesses to have smart meters by 2020. However a response to a Written Parliamentary Question from Linda Fabiani MSP has highlighted potential shortcomings in the roll out of scheme that could mean higher bills for pensioners.
Scottish Government’s Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing noted in his response to Ms Fabiani that the Scottish Government have significant concerns with the implementation of the programme and the technology being used.
Mr Ewing noted: “There is real possibility that those who do not have smart meters installed, whether for technical reasons or because they refuse to do so, may face higher bills. This may cause a particular risk that pensioners pay more which would be wholly unacceptable.”
Ms Fabiani has now written to Amber Rudd, UK Government Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, seeking assurances that older and vulnerable people are not penalised in this way.
“The revelation that older people could be penalised by the roll out of smart meters is an alarming development; the DECC need to curb these fears and make a commitment that no one will be penalised with an increase in their bills due to this policy.
“Scottish pensioners have suffered enough at the hands of successive Westminster governments and already face further increases in the pension age that do not take into account Scottish circumstances.
“The SNP are campaigning for lower energy bills for consumers by pushing for the Energy Company Obligation to be funded through general taxation and not as a charge on energy bills. We also need to give the regulators new powers to make sure that energy companies pass on the benefits of lower prices to their customers.
“The UK Government need to take the action needed to cut energy bills and to protect our pensioners from even further increases or give the Scottish Parliament the substantial powers over energy policy we need to get on with the job.”
1. Written Parliamentary Question S4W-26359, Answered by Fergus Ewing, 04/08/2015:
Linda Fabiani (East Kilbride) (Scottish National Party): To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the roll-out of smart meters to households.
The Scottish government supports the aims of the smart meter roll-out. A smart meter, together with an individual display unit provides real-time information about energy use and costs, encouraging better household energy management.
However, we have significant concerns regarding the implementation of the programme. Criticisms of the programme have been made in a National Audit Office report of June 2014 and by the Energy and Climate Change Committee in July 2015 and further concerns have been raised during meetings that the Scottish Government has had with stakeholders.
It is clear that the costs and benefits of the programme anticipated in The Department of Energy & Climate Change’s (DECC) impact assessment are viewed with huge scepticism due to the delays that have occurred and due to practicalities of the scheme not being fully considered.
Meters being installed currently are not the highest specification in terms of function and security (SMETS 1 versus SMETS 2). Delays by the Data and Communications Company, who will provide the communications platform for the transmission of smart meter data and messages, are exacerbating this issue meaning more
SMETS 1 meters will be installed than intended, thus increasing the costs of the programme.
This inconsistency in meter installation may well mean that customers with older meters find it more difficult to switch supplier in future. There is also a real possibility that those who do not have smart meters installed, whether for technical reasons or because they refuse to do so, may face higher bills. This may cause a particular risk that pensioners pay more which would be wholly unacceptable.
The Scottish Government is of the view that the most vulnerable are the most in need of a smart energy solution; so particular caution must be exercised to ensure that the rollout is designed for their needs.
I raised these issues in a phone call to the UK Energy Minister, Lord Bourne, on 22 July and I will continue to press the UK Government to ensure that the programme is delivered at the lowest possible cost to the greatest number of Scottish consumers whilst enhancing the benefits to the most vulnerable in our society and those at risk of fuel poverty.
2. Written Parliamentary Question S4W-26367, Answered by Fergus Ewing, 04/08/2015:
Linda Fabiani (East Kilbride) (Scottish National Party): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with (a) Smart Energy GB and (b) consumer organisations regarding the forthcoming advertising campaign to raise awareness of smart meters.
The Scottish Government has met officials from Smart Energy GB, Ofgem, the energy companies, energy savings trust and Citizens’ Advice Scotland on several occasions to discuss the impact of the smart meter roll out on consumers, and in particular low-income and vulnerable consumers, including those at risk of being in fuel poverty.
The Scottish Government have been clear with all parties in these discussions that we see areas for improvement in the smart meter roll out process.
During our discussions it has been cited as a real possibility that those who cannot install, or refuse to install smart meters may face higher bills. There is a particular risk that a number of senior citizens will fall in this category and may therefore end up paying more, This would be wholly unacceptable.
Further notes: see letter attached