Publication - Minutes

Energy Consumers Commission: January 2021

Published: 1 Mar 2021
Date of meeting: 12 Jan 2020

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

Published:
1 Mar 2021
Energy Consumers Commission: January 2021

Attendees and apologies

Members:

  • Lewis Shand Smith, Chair
  • Frazer Scott, Chief Executive, Energy Action Scotland
  • Carol Masheter, Community Development Manager, Siorbheas 
  • Dan van der Horst, Professor, Energy, Environment & Society
  • Lucy Gillie, Manager, South Seeds
  • Robert Lindsay, Manager, THAW Orkney 
  • Suzy Goodsir, Chief Executive, Green Kirkcaldy
  • Alastair Wilcox, Citizens Advice Scotland 

Secretariat:

  • Jamie MacLeod, Scottish Government
  • Pete Brearley, Scottish Government
  • Julie Thompson, Scottish Government

Apologies: 

  • Kate Morrison, Citizens Advice Scotland

Presentations:

  • Monika De Volder, Senior Economic Officer, Future Team Leader, BEUC
  • Melanie Macrae, Team Leader, Heat Strategy Unit, Scottish Government 

Items and actions

Introductions

The Chair welcomed Alastair Wilcox to the meeting who is attending on behalf of Kate Morrison.

Update on 2021 Project Plan – Pete Brearley, Scottish Government 

A draft of the 2021 Project Plan was circulated to the members in advance of the meeting.The ECC project plan builds on the 2020/2021 workplan by setting out our thinking for project work in the 2021/2022 financial year. 

A summary was provided of the work to date and timelines; 

  • any comments on draft project plan to be provided to Pete Brearley by Monday 18 January
  • propose to publish project plan consultation by early February 2021 ahead of final plan in March/April 2021

Additional 2021/2022 considerations – Jamie Macleod, Scottish Government

CAS support for commission

The key change from last year’s workplan is the ECC will receive full energy levy for next financial year. Based on Citizen Advice Scotland’s (CAS) extensive expertise in advocacy and to ensure the commission is more able to engage on the issues affecting Scottish consumers, it is proposed that CAS provide support to the ECC to manage and deliver levy funded projects and for advocacy activities) for the coming financial year. The Secretariat role will remain with the Scottish Government. 

Benefits of CAS support 

  • energy market advocacy would have a gap in provision of non-projects based advocacy if funding to staff (at either CAS or ECC) is not approved for the period
  • ECC cannot currently hire staff so will gain resource for making more detailed/informed contributions on their priority themes, taking a wider view than would be delivered by CAS alone
  • CAS will be able to maintain experience/knowledge of existing staff
  • takes ECC a step towards role they may need to play when part of Consumer Scotland

This proposal was opened to the group for wider discussion.

It was raised that transparency is needed to ensure this approach is clear in the workplan with clarity around how the funds will be allocated. 

ECC members are generally supportive of CAS to provide a support role. Members are invited to raise any further comments or feedback after the meeting. 

BESW

Clarification was sought if ECC will engage in BESW in FY 22/22 year. This is something that will be considered. The importance of having an “evaluation” of projects was discussed to ensure projects undertaken are value for money and therefore to be funded next year.  

Action:  

  • CAS will share their evaluation of BESW for 2019 with ECC members

Update on 2020/2021 Workplan

An updated workplan from this year was circulated to members in advance of the meeting. The workplan has been updated to include a revised advocacy timetable, information on work with CAS and to incorporate feedback from the October 2020 consultation. 

BEUC Presentation                             

Monica De Volder from BEUC joined the meeting and provided a summary on the role of BEUC and their energy priorities and activities. BECU members are national consumer organisations. BEUC’s role is to inform member organisations and influence EU law on behalf of consumers. 

Clean Energy Package

  • a step ahead for consumer rights. Very limited rights on district heating. This is a priority    

Green Deal for Europe - Four priorities

  • sustainable finance
  • sustainable mobility 
  • sustainable housing
  • sustainable food

Consumer rights

  • electricity
  • gas 
  • district heating

STEP project to tackle energy poverty

  • a H2020 funded project offering solutions to tackle energy poverty
  • the aim is to tackle energy poverty through low cost energy measures via training, advice and advocacy for organisations to support consumers
  • 13 policy RECCS

Flexible products should be fit for consumer needs

  • remuneration 
  • control
  • protection

Clear 2.0 Project – six countries participated last year

  • project enabled consumers to learn, engage and adopt renewable energy technologies.

Sustainable housing

  • ensure that the sustainable choice is an easy choice for consumers (clear information, independent advice, reliable service and assistance when renovating buildings, well-designed policies and financial tools). 

CEER – BEUC 2030 vision for Energy Consumers

Long term energy transition for sustainability and climate neutrality

  • affordability
  • protection
  • reliability
  • simplicity
  • inclusiveness 
  • empowerment 

A Q and A was opened to the group:

Q: Who should be “influencing” the consumer?
A: Depends on what we are promoting, all have part to play whether government or organisation. The aim is to make the choice attractive and accessible to as many consumers as possible. 

Q: How do we financially incentivise renewables?
A. Awareness is low on EE/behaviour savings etc.  Information is first step, e.g. paybacks etc. Collective purchases helped to make certain technologies more affordable.    

Q: District Heating - is it seen as a solution for old/urban situations, any views on lack of choice? 
A. District heating can be an interesting solution – this has previously been seen as a  local issue but we have identified similar issues across Europe. Not level with electricity switching but potential in decarbonisation, one solution, also looking at others.  BEUC should have more concrete Recommendation in coming months.

It was noted that it is encouraging to see we that we are focusing on the same issues and themes as our European partners. 

Robert Lindsay provided details on the Orkney project ReFLEX which is developing an integrated energy system in Orkney to increase use of local renewable energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Read more information.

Heat in Building Strategy (HBS) -  Melanie McCrae, Scottish Government

Melanie McCrae joined the meeting and provided an overview on the HBS which is due to be published shortly.

The HBS is a combined strategy which includes The Heat Decarbonisation Policy Statement and updated Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map. This strategy sets out the proposed actions for transforming our buildings and the systems that supply their heat. Scottish Government have a climate change target of net zero emissions by 2045. A lot of the deliverables on this target will need to be met in the 2020’s. Consultation questions will be included in the strategy.     

Timeframes

  • published in coming weeks
  • draft for consultation with a series of questions
  • series of engagement workshops
  • consultation phase – 12 weeks

A Q and A was opened to the group: 

Q: How does Scottish Government want to engage with ECC regarding this?  
A: There will be a series of workshops.  It was agreed a Consumer specific workshop would be valuable and ECC members could participate in this or any of the other  workshops. 

Q: There is a concern we haven’t met fuel poverty targets as yet and there is no strategy in place.
A: Fuel poverty is touched on within the HBS strategy and the fuel poverty team have provided input. The Fuel Poverty strategy will be published shortly. The importance of having both strategy’s aligned was flagged.       

Q – Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES), will all local authorities need one before the Heat in Buildings Strategy (HBS) can work?  
A:There is a date In HBS that we are aiming for all LHEES to be in place for, but in interim it won't stop things moving forward.

It was noted that it would be useful to keep the ECC in the loop with any meetings/information during the HBS consultation process.  

It was noted that the HBS strategy could assist with the goals of the commission/grassroots network.

Grassroots mapping exercise 

As part of the ECC workplan to support grassroots organisations, a mapping of these organisations have been collated and shared with the members to review and fill in any gaps or amendments as required.  

Action:

  • ECC members to review Grassroots document by 18 January 2020

Any other business

It was raised that a recent article in the Telegraph stated that smart meters will be made mandatory for those with teleswitch meters.

CAS’ talks with Energy UK indicate that they are concerned that consumers should have a choice. CAS are part of working groups looking at this issue.    

The Chair thanked the members for the work they have undertaken on assessing the projects thus far. 

Date of next meeting 

April 2021. Date to be confirmed.