The Scottish Government has been very clear that we want the rights of individual consumers to be protected and while consumer protection policy remains reserved to the UK Government, we are committed to ensuring our ambitious climate change targets do not leave any group of individuals behind.
The current economic climate is challenging for consumers. Hence we cannot underestimate the importance of ensuring that the costs and benefits of our energy transition will not fall unequally on consumers in vulnerable circumstances, we must avoid increasing any gaps in access to the benefits of a well-functioning energy market and address the risks of those in, or at risk of, fuel poverty paying more for their energy. The Scottish Government is acutely aware of these risks and has extensively considered the impacts on consumers of upcoming changes in its draft Heat in Buildings Strategy, and Climate Change Plan Update (2020).
The Scottish Government also continues to engage with the UK Treasury on its Net Zero Cost Review to encourage consideration of distributional impacts in the designing of the UK Government's net zero policy.
Our Energy Consumer Action Plan was established in May 2019 and we have implemented an range of actions to enhance the consumer voice in the energy market. These include:
- Establishing an independent Energy Consumers Commission to engage in high level energy decision making and make use of the unique insights of grassroots energy organisations;
- Establishing an Improving Consumer Outcomes Fund to develop practical innovations that can be adopted, adapted and scaled up by service providers;
- Developing an interactive data hub to provide a comprehensive picture of the energy consumer landscape; and
- Research on consumer impacts of changes to the domestic heating and electric vehicles.
The consumer voice is now well represented on the Scottish Energy Advisory Board through the recently established Energy Consumers Commission and the Scottish Government has continued to work worked closely with energy companies as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response, pushing to ensure that energy consumers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, are supported.
We will remain in contact with Ofgem, Energy UK (the trade association for the energy industry) and other stakeholders to develop further measures to protect consumers as the situation develops.
We have funded Home Energy Scotland to provide wide-ranging energy advice and support for energy efficiency and renewable installations by householders.
This has included the ground-breaking Smart Meter Advice Programme which has helped consumers to get the most out of their smart meters, a key facilitator in the transition to decarbonised energy systems.
We are working to protect the consumer on a local level with our £7.5 million Strategic Partnership including Transport Scotland, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and SP Energy Networks which launched in August 2019. The Partnership is exploring new ways of coordinating the development and delivery of electric vehicle charging and electricity network infrastructure; to ensure efficient investment and a fair distribution of cost across electricity consumers.
With £5.3 million of Scottish Government funding, it is anticipated that by March 2021 up to 180 publicly available charge points will be installed across 44 sites in the Lanarkshire area through project PACE that is being delivered by Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) through the Strategic Partnership. SPEN estimate that between £1.3 million to £2.6 million electricity grid connection savings have been realised through more efficient planning and coordination of EV and electricity network infrastructure in selection of the 44 sites.
As we move forward, we are extending this partnership model to encompass the heat in buildings transition, to help deliver positive consumer outcomes as we transition a large proportion of our heating demand to heat pumps.
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