Gas and electricity bills have been making folk swoon, if not faint. But these heating supplies are still subject to regulation. OFGEM can act and the Chancellor could direct them to do so. Some element of control therefore still remains, even if it may not seem any comfort to those currently despairing as to how they’ll manage to meet these bills.
But other fuels remain unregulated. That is, they’re not subject to any regulation at all in price though of course controls on heath and safety still apply. But OFGEM has neither remit nor powers to intervene. Those fuels include heating oil, LPG, and solid fuel. I asked the Chancellor if he planned to address what appears after all to be an anomaly and certainly a worry for those who depend upon those type of fuels, but he demurred.
The numbers aren’t insignificant as it’s reckoned that some 5% of households rely on oil for heating though the other fuels seem to be at a far lower level. But 5% in Scotland is still a significant number as total households number just under 2.4 million. Meaning that 120,000 homes or so are affected and tens of thousands with other types of fuel. Costs there have likewise rocketed and there’s neither a ceiling nor a way of capping them.
Exacerbating that’s that fact that many are in the north and highlands though rural parts throughout the country are affected. In East Lothian it’s not just isolated cottages but even some villages. After all it tends not to have been a lifestyle choice, but a factor forced upon them by their location and lack of proximity to the gas grid.
Costs have historically been higher for them and the easy use of gas has been missing. It’s no surprise either that these areas tend to have the highest rates of fuel poverty, approaching 1 in 3 in Scotland and over 50% in the islands and that before the recent hikes.
It’s why the Chancellor needs to not just act on gas and electricity prices but regulate and act on these other fuel supplies.