Energy: Non-Domestic Energy Consumers Short-Life Working Group minutes - August 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 10 August 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Chambers of Commerce 
  • Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) 
  • Scottish Enterprise 
  • Scottish Tourism Alliance 
  • UK Hospitality
  • Business Energy Scotland 
  • Energy UK 
  • Community Leisure UK
  • Scottish Retail Consortium 
  • Findlater’s Fine Foods
  • Graham’s the Family Dairy 
  • Consumer Scotland 
  • Advice Direct Scotland (ADS)
  • Ofgem 
  • Council of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Head of the Heat Strategy and Consumer Policy Unit 

Items and actions

Opening Remarks 

The Scottish Government's Head of the Heat Strategy and Consumer Policy Unit welcomed everyone to the meeting and made the following points: 

  • provided apologies on behalf of the Deputy Director for the Heat in Buildings Division who was unable to attend the meeting 
  • members were asked to introduce themselves
  • expressed gratitude to members for their work on the objectives of the group

Agenda item 2: Support for vulnerable businesses

  • the chair provided an update on the actions being progressed by the Scottish Government under this workstream and highlighted a letter sent in July 2023 from the Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy, Neil Gray, to the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps, setting out the Scottish Government's priorities in relation to further support with energy bills for vulnerable businesses
  • the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) confirmed they are content with the wording in the Cabinet Secretary's letter calling for future support for energy intensive businesses

Agenda item 3: Energy Bills Discount Scheme (EBDS) / UK Government Support

  • the chair advised that the Scottish Government’s Consumer Policy Team are working with colleagues in Scottish Enterprise and Advice Direct Scotland (ADS) on two separate work strands in relation to the actions in this agenda item
  • ADS provided an overview of their plans to incorporate non-domestic data into their current Heat Map which is quality checked and refreshed every 6 weeks (ADS advised that users can search the Heat Map in a number of ways for data including by local authority, constituency and council wards)
  • ADS has noticed a sharp rise in non-domestic consumers contacting them for help with issues about disconnection of supply (which did not appear in the top three reasons for consumer contact previously) and are looking into the primary causes behind this
  • Business Energy Scotland (BES) is looking into how to shorten consumer journeys by introducing more self-help resources such as self-assessment measures to ensure BES advisors’ time is well spent 
  • BES’ Green Heating Installers Engagement Programme aims to increase the number of installers able to install low carbon retro fit in properties (access to installers is often the biggest barrier to entry for businesses installing heat pumps)
  • BES recently launched a mobile heat pump training week to train local installers with a focus on rural areas (installers in these areas are often excluded due to lack of access to training)
  • Ofgem are ramping up work on non-domestic energy consumers and are launching a cross-GB campaign targeted at micro businesses and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) directing consumers to the most appropriate support

Agenda item 4: Access to advice services

  • ADS outlined the actions they are progressing under this workstream, supported by the Federation of Small Business (FSB), including an online campaign highlighting self-help resources launching in September
  • ADS and FSB, are organising a webinar on advice services for FSB members which will take place in September/October
  • ADS are also working with FSB to ensure they have the correct focus when targeting businesses via social media
  • ADS has contacted Ofgem regarding obtaining escalated access to all suppliers for non-domestic consumers (similar to the arrangement they have with domestic suppliers) which will make a big difference for those non-domestic consumers experiencing issues getting through their suppliers (ADS are expecting to be able to provide regular updates on this work as it progresses) 
  • Energy UK and ADS will catch up separately in relation to this in order to understand the issues involved 

Agenda item 5: Any other business 

  • Ofgem has announced a non-domestic market review which focuses on issues that have been discussed and will share information with the Scottish Government for circulation among group members
  • Scottish Enterprise provided an overview of challenges around access to the electricity grid due to capacity/connection issues which will likely cause issues around the heat pump rollout which in turn has implications for investment in Scotland (as some businesses are being quoted a 7 year wait time for connection) and the chair and Scottish Enterprise will pick up on this separately

Closing remarks 

  • the chair thanked members for their time and for the work they are doing in progressing the group's actions
  • the chair highlighted the date of the next meeting and invited members to pass on any further queries and comments to the Scottish Government officials 
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