Frontline advice groups urge more support for energy consumers

New report follows Scottish Government energy summit.

Statutory consumer body Consumer Scotland has published the report of the Scottish Energy Insights and Coordination Group (SEIC).

SEIC was convened by Consumer Scotland following the former First Minister’s energy summit in August 2022, held to support consumers and businesses facing rising energy prices.

SEIC brought together representatives of frontline advice bodies supporting energy consumers in Scotland.

The members of the SEIC were Advice Direct Scotland, Age Scotland, Changeworks, Citizens Advice Scotland, Energy Action Scotland, the Energy Ombudsman, the Energy Saving Trust, Inclusion Scotland the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, and the Wise Group.

Its focus was to understand the impact on consumers of sharply rising energy costs and report on ways to mitigate those impacts.

There was a high degree of consensus amongst the group that consumers most impacted by energy affordability problems were those on prepayment meters, disabled people, consumers on lower incomes, electric heating users, and women.

SEIC members also reported demand for advice services had increased significantly because of energy price rises exacerbating pressures on both advice agencies and individual advisers.

Recommendations from the SEIC report include:

  • urgent and essential improvements to customer support from energy suppliers
  • continuing financial support for consumers in the short term and greater clarity on longer term financial support
  • improvements to the delivery of energy efficiency schemes
  • investment in the energy advice sector to help consumers access support

The group was chaired by Lewis Shand Smith, the chair of the Energy Consumers Committee, a committee of Consumer Scotland.

He said: “The speed and magnitude of change in both energy markets have been unprecedented and seem likely to continue.

"The group believes its proposals will bring long term benefits to consumers in Scotland, regardless of further short-term volatility in energy markets.

“Many of the recommendations highlighted are already in the public domain, but the group hope this report will encourage take-up.

“While SEIC members recognise the spending and capacity constraints facing government the group concentrated on measures it considers are achievable in the short and medium terms.”

Chief Executive of Consumer Scotland Sam Ghibaldan said: “Consumer Scotland was pleased to be able to bring together frontline advice agencies to gain a comprehensive picture of the impact of the energy crisis on consumers.

“This insight is important to inform an effective response to the problems people are facing and we are grateful to the organisations concerned for their constructive engagement in this group.”


Scottish Energy Insights and Coordination Group Report

Consumer Scotland convened and provided secretariat, policy and communications support to SEIC.

The group met three times between November 2022 and March 2023, with members also contributing through research material and individual meetings.

SEIC was established as a short life working group with the intention of running until the end of March 2023. Its report has now been provided to the Scottish Government.

Consumer Scotland is now considering how best to take forward this area of work.