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Over a third of people in Scotland worry they can't afford their next fuel bill

16 Jan 2012

35% of people in Scotland are worried they can’t afford their next fuel bill and one in two say energy bills will put a strain on their finances this year, according to new figures released today from Citizens Advice Scotland at the start of its Big Energy Week which will help people save money on their fuel bills.

Big Energy Week (16-21 January 2012) will see CAB advisers across the country help people spend less on heating and powering their home. The Week is supported by Consumer Focus, Which?, Energy UK, energy companies, charities, accredited switching sites, Ofgem and the Government. (See end for details of advice event at St James Centre, Edinburgh which Secretary of State, Michael Moore will be attending).

Citizens Advice Scotland Head of Policy, Susan McPhee said:

“Every day, citizens advice bureaux across Scotland help people who are struggling to pay their fuel bills. In 2010/11 we helped clients with over 10,500, energy issues. Current economic circumstances mean many people are finding it hard to meet rising fuel costs. Through Big Energy Week we want to let people know exactly how they can save money by checking their current tariff, switching suppliers and insulating their home.

“In Scotland the Big Energy Week survey found:

  • having the heating on less topped the list of what people are doing to cut energy bills (43%), followed by using less electricity (36%).
  • one in three people in Scotland don’t know that energy companies are offering help to insulate their home.

(See end for full fact file with more statistics)

“I hope this campaign will help lots of people reduce their fuel bills by getting the best advice possible on how they can save money on their energy bills.”

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said: “We know that a lot of households are struggling to cope with rising energy costs. Many people could cut their gas and electricity bills by moving to a better deal with their existing supplier, switching to another supplier altogether, or by taking up home insulation offers. But we need to make sure consumers are aware of this and make it easier for them to take action to save money. That is why I am backing Big Energy Week and delighted that Citizen Advice Scotland and its CAB’s are leading on this campaign. We want to get the advice and information out to as many consumers across the country as possible.”

At  (link no longer available) you can get advice on how to cut your fuel bill, helpful contact telephone numbers and links as well as find out what’s happening in your area. You can also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureaux to for energy saving advice – the number will be in the phone book.

Big Energy Week is helping people save money on their bills by encouraging them to: 

  • Contact your supplier to check you are you are on the best tariff and payment method for you. Monthly direct debit is on average £100 cheaper per year than paying by cash or cheque.
  • Visit an accredited switching website to see if you could get your energy cheaper elsewhere. You may be able to save up to £200 off your annual bill by shopping around for a different supplier, particularly if you have never changed energy firm.
  • Insulate the walls and the loft of your home and you could save on average around £120 per year. All major gas and electricity suppliers are giving away free or discounted insulation to any household, not just their own customers. Ask if you’re eligible so you don’t miss out. That goes for heating oil customers too.
  • Check you are not missing out on any benefits or tax credits that could up your income; your local Citizens Advice Bureaux can help you with this.
  • Using less energy could save you money, just by doing simple things like turning off lights and switching appliances off at the wall. Turning your thermostat down 1°C alone could cut your heating bill by £60 on average.
  • If you are unable to pay your bills you should contact your energy supplier immediately as they have to help you manage your bills in a way that you can afford.
  • If you use heating oil or liquid petroleum gas to heat your home, shop around and compare prices from different oil suppliers. You could also save money by buying in bulk with your neighbours; check if there is an oil club you can join or start one up.

For more information contact: matthew.lancashire@cas.org.uk

Tel: Scotland press office: Matt Lancashire on 0131 550 1062 or 07788546862

Event for media to attend:

Edinburgh:  St James Shopping Centre
Monday 16 January 2012, 9am-6pm
Ground floor, Main Entrance near Accessorize

Michael Moore MP -, Secretary of State for Scotland, will arrive at the St James Centre event at 10am.

Other filming opportunities and case studies:  Big Energy Week events across the country.

We have a limited number of case studies available for interview. These include people who are struggling with their energy bills and those who have cut their bills by insulating their home or made it more energy efficient.

Fact File

Big Energy Week Scotland survey findings*

  • 35% of people are worried they can’t afford their next fuel bill.
  • One in two say energy bills will put a strain on their finances this year.
  • One in three people don’t know that help is available to insulate their home

What people in Scotland are doing to cut their bills:

  • 43% don't have the heating on as much
  • 36% are using less electricity
  • 32% have insulated their home
  • 19% have changed to a cheaper way to pay such as direct debit
  • 18% don't use some of the rooms in their home
  • 14% have changed to another energy supplier

Other statistics

  • In 2010/11 we helped clients with over 10,500 energy issues. (source: Citizens Advice Scotland)
  • The average energy bill (based on dual fuel standard credit - cash / cheque customer) is 21% higher than it was at the start of last winter – rising from £1,069 in November 2010 to £1294 now (source: Consumer Focus)
  • One in six people plan to only heat half, or fewer, of the rooms in their house this winter. (source: Consumer Focus)
  • Fewer than half of people (49%) are aware their energy firm has to take their circumstances and ability to pay into consideration when arranging repayments of outstanding bills and almost one in five (19%) believe their supplier could name any amount and they would have to pay it. (source: Consumer Focus)
  • 5.5 million households in the UK are in fuel poverty (source: the Department of Energy and Climate Change)
  • In 2009, about 770,000 homes were said to be in fuel poverty, spending over 10% of income on heating, compared with 618,000 in 2008 and 293,000 in 2002. (source: the Scottish Government)
  • Research by the Home Heat Helpline shows that one in ten UK households are entitled to some form of assistance with their fuel bills but many people don’t know what help is available. That help is worth an average of £250 for each household. (source: Home Heat Helpline)
  • In total 3.5 million households in the UK could benefit from using the Home Heat Helpline to claim support, with some regions being even more eligible for help than others. For example in Birmingham and Liverpool, over one in five households is eligible for assistance, proving an even greater reason to pick up the phone. (source: Home Heat Helpline)
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