Non-Domestic Energy Consumers Short-Life Working Group minutes - October 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 24 October 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Gillian Martin MSP, Minister for Energy and the Environment 
  • 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)

Items and actions

Opening Remarks

The minister welcomed everyone to the meeting and made the following points:

  • expressed gratitude to members for their work on the objectives of the group (the table of actions was included in members’ meeting pack)
  • advised she will be writing to the UK Government ahead of the Autumn Statement with a package of asks that this and the Rural Energy Consumers Short-Life Working Group and the Vulnerable Enery Consumers Short-Life Working Group have helped shape, and a copy of the letter will be circulated to members
  • advised she will be meeting Ofgem in November and will feed back anything of note to members
  • highlighted how helpful the group had been and raised the possibility of the group continuing on an ad hoc basis going forward, particularly as the outcome of the Autumn Statement will soon be known

Agenda item 2: Support for vulnerable businesses

  • the minister provided an update on the three actions in this section (energy intensive businesses, ‘blend and extend’ contracts, and energy market reform / decoupling), advising that our asks of the UK Government were included in the Cabinet Secretary, Neil Gray’s letter to former Secretary of State Grant Shapps in July (circulated to group members prior to the August meeting of the group)
  • the minister highlighted that officials were chasing for a response to this letter but that our asks of the UK Government would be reiterated and expanded upon in the letter the Minister will be writing to the UK Government ahead of the Autumn Statement.  

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

  • the minister advised that the Scottish Government-led action in this section (to remove levies on bills to general taxation) was included in the Cabinet Secretary's July letter to the former Secretary of State

The minister invited Advice Direct Scotland (ADS) to provide an update on the action they are leading in this section.

  • ADS provided an update on their work to incorporate non-domestic data into their current Heat Map stating that they now have all the data required and that they will send the link through to officials when it goes live  
  • ADS highlighted that their data does not show as many rural businesses as they might have expected, so it is possible that their data may not be as representative a sample as they may have hoped

The minister invited Business Energy Scotland (BES) to provide an update on the actions they are leading in this section.

  • BES advised that although demand for their services has been quieter over summer they expect demand to ramp up as winter progresses
  • BES has been providing more self help resources for businesses, including introducing a self-booking system for help sessions with advisors
  • BES has also been augmenting their training courses, distributing information about insulation, and working through a list of businesses they helped last year to see if they need more / other help

Agenda item 4 : Access to advice Services

The minister invited ADS to provide an update on the actions they are leading in this section.  

  • ADS advised that in collaboration with Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) they delivered a webinar to FSB members to discuss their energy concerns
  • ADS advised that some of the queries raised at the webinar were issues specific to individual businesses rather than issues facing all members, however, the webinar was well attended and they are hoping deliver more such webinars in the coming months
  • FSB advised that they had lots of positive feedback from their members on the webinar and although energy bills may not be at the forefront of their members minds, this will no doubt increase as winter approaches 
  • ADS advised that they have also now run their media campaign highlighting self-help resources for businesses
  • ADS advised that they are still waiting for Ofgem to get the escalated contacts for business specific suppliers and can share the information as to what they require for the Scottish Government to help push for this

Agenda item 5: Any other business  

  • it is understood that Ofgem are looking to publish updated standards of conduct for the non-domestic sector and that there will be a consultation in late Autumn, and also that DESNZ are looking to expand access to the Energy Ombudsman for small businesses
  • the minister asked the for the group’s thoughts on the continuation of the group on an ad hoc basis and there was broad consensus that members were content to meet again in the near future
  • the minister also advised that she is due to meet the UK Government’s Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability, Amanda Solloway, in the coming weeks and that the group will be kept up to date with any relevant outcomes of that meeting 

Closing remarks

  • the minister thanked members for their time and as there was no other business, ended the meeting
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