Not-for-profit energy supplier ignites fight against fuel poverty in Scotland

Not for profit energy supplier, Our Power has partnered with Money Advice Scotland to tackle the issue of fuel poverty among customers who heat their homes by electric storage heating and are tied into using Restricted Meters.

Our Power has launched a variable tariff that offers a fairer energy price for customers on restricted meters who previously have been excluded from accessing competitive tariffs and typically pay up to 2.5 times more to heat their homes than a household heated by gas.

What is a restricted meter?

Customers who heat their homes by electric storage heaters in Scotland are likely to be on a restricted meter. The meter activates the charging of the storage and water heating at times determined by the network operator linked to demand on the network and weather conditions. Customers in North Scotland who are likely to be on a Total Heat Total Control tariff, are charged a higher rate for their domestic energy (light and sockets) and a lower rate for heat and hot water. While Customers in South Scotland who are likely to be on ComfortPlus Control or White Meter, are charged a different domestic day rate, domestic night rate (incl water heating) and a heat rate.

What is the issue?

These customers are often unable to switch providers, and are therefore unable to access tariffs across the market or tariffs available to single rate meter customers. This results in little or no choice around their tariff or their supplier. Customers with restricted meters are predominately located in off gas grid areas or in multi-story blocks.

Customers living in off the gas grid areas pay about 2.5 times more to heat their homes (than a customer heating their home by gas) which increases the likelihood of being in fuel poverty.

A new alternative

Launched in 2016 by social housing providers, including housing associations and local authorities, Our Power was set up as a social enterprise with the aim of providing fair, affordable, clean and secure energy for all customers, while removing discrimination and poverty from the energy sector.

Alister Steele, chair and co-founder at Our Power, said: “This is exactly the type of unfairness Our Power was created to address.  Through no fault of their own thousands of people across Scotland are being disadvantaged by the type of electric meter they are using. As we enter the grip of Winter the blight of fuel poverty will bite across our communities. Our ethos is about fairness, offering customers choice and respect through good service. Consumers on restricted meters have the right to choose more affordable energy. This is at the heart of this campaign.”

Yvonne MacDermid, chief executive, Money Advice Scotland, added: “As we enter Winter, our network of member money advisors are confronted with the fall-out of fuel poverty on a daily basis. Front and central to dealing with this issue is ensuring that all consumers, irrespective of their financial status or where they live, have access to a broad range of tariffs. We are aware of the issue of restricted meters preventing customers from accessing more affordable energy and we welcome Our Power’s move to find a solution.”

This customer group, on restricted or complex metering set up, have not had the opportunity to and cannot switch their supplies through Price Comparison websites. This is due to the complex nature of the metering and switching sites not supporting this type of customer. Our Power has created a simple form to capture and process their supply details and customers can view an estimate of savings against an incumbent supplier’s tariff at our-power.co.uk/takecontrol.