Publication - Minutes

Energy Consumers Commission minutes: April 2021

Published: 7 May 2021
Date of meeting: 12 Apr 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 12 April 2021.

Published:
7 May 2021
Energy Consumers Commission minutes: April 2021

Attendees and apologies

Energy Consumers Commission (ECC)

  • Lewis Shand Smith (Chair)
  • Kate Morrison - Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS)
  • Lucy Gillie - South Seeds
  • Suzy Goodsir - Greener Kirkcaldy
  • Carol Masheter - Soirbheas
  • Dan van der Horst - University of Edinburgh
  • Frazer Scott - Energy Action Scotland (EAS)
  • Robert Leslie - Thaw Orkney

Scottish Government

  • Peter Brearley – Secretariat
  • Jamie Macleod – Secretariat

Guests

  • Kendal Morris - SPEN
  • Benjamin Merrit – BEIS
  • Sian Morland - BEIS

Items and actions

Update from Chair

  • discussion of the Energy Action Scotland (EAS) Fuel Poverty Conference
  • 900 sign-ups with 350 unique participants
  • feedback very positive with several members attending

Summary of research and project plan update

  • the ECC 2021/2022 Project Plan has been finalised and will be published soon
  • feedback on electric vehicles was important as these will be a key focus of upcoming decarbonisation work

  • the Project Plan to be amended to highlight work of Citizens Advice and crossovers

Citizens Advice Scotland role in the ECC

Discussion of CAS role in supporting the commission and how this will differ from previous processes

  • the need to consider the staff of CAS throughout the transition was raised

  • working with the commission will be Alastair Wilcox, Michael O’Brian, Emily Rice
  • the discussion delved into how best to work collaboratively between CAS and the ECC
    • how will grassroots organisations be involved?
    • how extensively will members be involved in day-to-day work?
    • to what extent should the ECC aim for consensus?
    • in particular, responses to consultations were highlighted as a key area. Questions were raised about which consultations should be responded to and in how much detail
  • the example of the recent Ofgem Redress consultation was raised as interesting as views differ between commission members on a number of issues, e.g. on network charges between central and northern Scotland. There will be different views here
  • potentially the ECC’s consultation response could be disseminated amongst Grassroots Organisations to inform theirs. There was a worry however that worries that ECC’s messaging may be diluted by this
  • the upcoming Heat in Buildings Strategy consultation was raised, CAS are currently prepping a response and the commission discussed whether this should come from the ECC or from CAS
  • this led into a discussion of the separate CAS and ECC roles and the difficulties in reconciling these
  • these points will be addressed through the Forward Work Plan to be produced by CAS and also Kate’s engagement with the members

Scottish Government update

  • due to time constraints only a very brief summary was given

  • COP 26 is an invaluable opportunity for the commission to share its knowledge and build links. There may also be opportunities to engage earlier in Fuel Poverty events in September

BEIS presentation on call for evidence on affordability and fairness

Speaker: Benjamin Merrit – BEIS

  • the BEIS Affordability Unit was introduced – it was established in the tail end of 2020 to tackle price distortions and trade-offs,

  • the Affordability and Fairness Call for evidence is part of wide government piece including net zero review

    • all voices can contribute
    • this will build on the UK Governments Energy White Paper - breaking down the composition of an energy bill, how it has changed over time and will extrapolate up to 2030
    • the impact of energy efficiency and distributional impacts will be a key focus - e.g. impact on gas/elec prices, consideration of who can install renewables
    • the aim is to encourage people to use intermittent renewable peaks without subsidising already cheap electricity
    • end of April publication is current aim although it may not be feasible considering current delays
    • the consultation window will ideally be 3 months
  • in response the commission highlighted that a one size fits all approach will not work for Scotland or rather the wider UK
  • Orkney was suggested as a key pilot area for gas vs electricity costs
    • BEIS stated it was early days but they would welcome experiences of different parts of the UK
  • other issues discussed include
    • consumers paying off previous debt and with wrong meter
      • the consultation will discuss fuel poverty and similar issues
    • the GB average bill is not a great measure for Scottish consumers. Scottish consumers can pay more for services (smart meters) that they do not get to use. Obligations need to take these factors into account

Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) presentation on consumers

Speaker: Kendal Morris

    • Lewis has previously met with SPEN but thought that it would be good to hear from SPEN on how customer value will be measured

      • current work by SPEN on consumer value is for 2023- 2028 price controls

        • this provides customers an opportunity to shape services
        • several stages to this process from initial segmentation work to engagement, testing understanding and finally building engagement with a final bill
        • plan to be submitted to Ofgem in July 2021
        • value needs to have a consistent measurement tool - SPEN and all distribution network operators have built a tool that measures proxies to give social return on investment
        • when finalised happy to come back to discuss detail
        • an offer stands to talk to ECC when plan is finalised
      • key points from the commission
        • willingness to pay is crucial and hard to test as a hypothetical. Also willingness to pay and affordability are different things
        • flexibility in the energy system not clear to domestic customers. Hand-holding is necessary. Consumers worry about service declining in quality
        • a question was raised of who should educate consumers and how

SEAB Business Plan discussion

Discussion of how to enhance to consumer consideration in the work of the Scottish Energy Advisory Board (SEAB)

  • the potential to input into Scottish Energy Advisory Board’s (SEAB) work around the green recovery was discussed

  • this is in an early stage with Strategic Leadership Groups meeting in May – can consider this over the coming weeks

  • secretariat and CAS agreed to discuss this in a separate session

AOB

  • branding and communications were discussed as a key priority
  • in particular it was highlighted that Comms should ideally be handled externally to the Scottish Government support

  • note: a follow up email was sent clarifying that the levy funding should factor in communications costs