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Energy watchdog Ofgem has been told to scrap “unfair and regressive standing charges” that further exacerbate fuel poverty in the Western Isles.

Stating that Hebrideans are effectively subsiding mainland energy, Isles MP Angus MacNeil met recently with Ofgem and extracted agreement from Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, that the current prices being paid in the islands are unfair.

Commenting, Mr MacNeil said, “Standing charges are unfair and regressive, and they penalise those on lower incomes or those who are actively reducing their energy use.

“A standing charge is a fixed daily amount that you pay on energy bills regardless of how much energy you use.

“You don’t pay a standing charge to buy petrol; you just pay for what you use, as should also be the case for energy bills.

“The UK Government should engage with Ofgem to revise the standing charge model and replace it with a system which would correlate costs to ensure households only pay for energy they use.”

The MP continued that the worst fuel poverty statistics are in Scottish island areas. And many do not have the alternative of gas and are paying for these unfair legacy structures. 

“Why do the Government continue to place environmental and social levies on electricity bills despite the negative impact this has on encouraging the switch to low-carbon heating also the inequity, I might say, for people in rural and island areas who are not on mains gas?” Mr MacNeil asked Lord Callanan at a parliamentary committee.

In response, Lord Callanan agreed it was unfair on island residents. He added: “I absolutely accept the point from your constituents who are not on mains gas that this is potentially unfair. 

“Of course, if we are to electrify heat further and move forward with our heat pump target, it is something that we will need to make progress on, politically difficult, though I think you will accept that it is.”