High energy bills having substantial impact as winter approaches

Research shows a significant proportion of households are struggling to afford their bills.

The latest Energy Tracker from Consumer Scotland shows consumers are facing an increasing divide in their experience of the energy crisis.

For many consumers bills are slightly more affordable than they were 12 months, but some face higher bills, greater affordability challenges, and higher levels of stress and anxiety as a result.

Overall, fewer households are finding it difficult to keep up with their energy bills this autumn than was the case 12 months ago.

But 30% of households in Scotland – equivalent to around 750,000 households – continue to find it difficult or very difficult to keep up with their bills. This compares to 35% of households who were finding it difficult to keep up with their bills last autumn.

These groups are also less likely to perceive that the affordability of their bills has improved since last autumn, compared to the population as a whole.

Some groups are particularly likely to face affordability challenges including disabled people, those with long-term health conditions, those with low income, and those living off the gas grid.

Other key findings from the autumn 2023 tracker include:

  • Almost one fifth (19%) of households have borrowed money or missed rent or mortgage payments in the last six months as a result of the high cost of energy
  • Nearly one third of households are cutting back on food shopping to afford their energy bills
  • One third (34%) of respondents say energy bills are negatively affecting their mental health either ‘a lot’ or ‘a fair amount’

Energy prices remain substantially above their historic levels with a typical energy bill in October 2023 50% higher than in October 2021.

The announcement by Ofgem last week that the price cap will increase to £1,928 in January means the typical price in the first quarter of 2024 will be 60% higher than it was in January 2022.

Consumer Scotland’s Head of Energy Kate Morrison said:

“High energy bills continue to challenge many households, as the cumulative impact of the increased cost of living maintains pressure on household budgets.

“With the price cap set to rise again in January affordability challenges will particularly impact those who are already struggling.

“The need to provide a targeted approach to energy bill support this winter remains.

“In the longer term, the energy market needs to go through a series of reforms to enable all consumers to access affordable, clean energy.

“The legacy of last winter means that an increasing number of households are now repaying energy debt in addition to their ongoing consumption.”


Energy Tracker: Insights from latest survey, Autumn 2023

The Energy Affordability Tracker is administered as an online survey delivered on our behalf by YouGov. The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample. Approximately 1,600 individuals have been interviewed at each wave.

Established under the Consumer Scotland Act 2020, Consumer Scotland is a Non-Ministerial Office, independent from government and accountable to the Scottish Parliament.

Consumer Scotland has highlighted ongoing issues of affordability in the energy market in a series of tracker surveys.

Consumer Spotlight: Energy Affordability Tracker 1

Consumer Spotlight: Energy Affordability Tracker 2 

Consumer Spotlight: Energy Affordability Tracker 3

Consumer Scotland: Prepayment Meter Briefing