Social enterprise the Wise Group revealed that 26.3 per cent of its customers in Glasgow were reporting rationing or disconnecting their energy supply.
A new report also revealed a huge 185 per cent jump in energy advice enquiries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is the report?
The Wise Group’s new Lights Off to Lights On report included responses from Wise Group customers in the Greater Glasgow and Tyne and Wear areas.
It revealed that energy rationing households have become the ‘involuntarily greenest’ in the UK by cutting back or shutting off energy and fuel supplies. The findings also included a massive disparity in the use of energy inefficient and expensive electric heating between households rationing energy and the ONS average.
Energy companies have been unable to cope with increased demand during Covid – despite a 139 per cent increase in people seeking debt relief support, there’s only been a 41 per cent increase in debt relief given, which has resulted in more people disconnecting from the grid year-round.
What is the social enterprise saying?
Recent figures suggest 24.6 per cent of Scots households (613,000) live in fuel poverty, and the Wise Group CEO Sean Duffy described the situation as a crisis.
Mr Duffy said: “Almost a quarter of Scots live in fuel poverty. As a result, vulnerable people are choosing to self-disconnect their energy supply to save money, and as the temperatures drop, the decision to choose between eating and heating becomes increasingly stark.
”We have seen increasing numbers choosing to disconnect their energy supply, or at risk of self-disconnection for a variety of reasons. These households are hidden from the traditional ‘in debt’ description of the ‘vulnerable customer’ because they have chosen to disconnect.
“At The Wise Group, we are working hard to support and mentor as many customers in this position as possible.”
Greenest in the country
The research also revealed that vulnerable households are among the ‘greenest’ in the country, twice as likely to recycle as the UK average, but many feel excluded from the net zero initiatives at the heart of the discussions.
Two thirds of respondents in the research felt unable to consider buying an electric vehicle, installing solar panels or installing more energy efficient heating.
Despite this, more than 90 per cent said they regularly recycled, showing a willingness to engage with reducing climate change – and many have become the involuntary greenest in the UK because they are forced to cut their supplies.
What is the situation in Glasgow?
Emma Howe, from Glasgow, a Wise Group mentor dealing with some of the most acute cases reported, said: “The sad thing is a lot of our customers are probably the ones who are doing the most, because they are not using anything (energy). So, they’re probably the ‘greenest’ in society, but it’s not through choice necessarily.”
Smart meter roll out has also hampered fuel-rationing households, with respondents revealing long waiting times, technical hitches and difficulty reading results.
Vulnerable families also tend to pay more for their energy due to the ‘poverty premium’, being unable to access the best deals and rates for services, and it’s predicted that more vulnerable families will fall into extreme fuel poverty.
For example, electric heating – which can be up to four times more expensive than gas heating – is used in only four per cent of all UK homes, but in 54 per cent of fuel rationing households who responded to the research. This may lead to further exclusion as they are left out of plans for the new heat pump systems roll out to replace boilers.
It’s also not an issue confined to deprived areas, as 56.6 per cent of those respondents rationing energy live outside of the top 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland, with some living in the least deprived 20 per cent.