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Call for 'fairer' Highland electricity prices

By Scott Maclennan

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A Highland MP has called for a change to the way electricity prices are set.
A Highland MP has called for a change to the way electricity prices are set.

UK government figures show the north of Scotland pays more for electricity than anywhere else in the country.

Highland MP Ian Blackford has slammed the current system as an “absolute scandal” as well as “discrimination”.

The UK is divided into different electricity delivery sectors, each with their own provider and company managing the grid and the north of Scotland sector is the most expensive.

The north of Scotland pays the highest average variable unit price per kilowatt for electricity – at £15.70 – but also has the highest average annual electricity bills – at £602.13.

By comparison, the south coast of England, excluding the south west, pays between £556 and £565 a year and are charged between £14.29 and £14.68 per kilowatt.

The Highlands also has the third highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland. Only Moray and the Western Isles fare worse.

Mr Blackford said: “It is an absolute scandal. I have already raised it a number of times in the House of Commons and had an adjournment debate on it as well.

“Britain is divided into different regions for electricity charges and in the Highlands we are charged two pence more per kilowatt for distribution.

“We are paying more here in the Highlands to have this electricity delivered back to us having been the source of generating it in the first place.

“So in other words the government is deciding to make money off people who are trying to heat their homes in the wettest and windiest part of the country.

“What I have repeatedly called for and said must be implemented is a universal market for electricity so that it doesn’t matter where you are located and everyone pays the same.

“The government is tin-eared on the issue. The point is that while they are talking about levelling up we have to say the proof of the pudding is in the eating and what they are doing right now is discrimination.”

The department of business, energy, and industrial strategy (BEIS) refused to comment beyond providing information on the UK government’s policy as it stands.

According to a consultation on the Hydro Benefit Replacement Scheme: “The government agrees with respondents that consumers in the north of Scotland should be protected from the significantly higher electricity distribution costs arising in the region, and welcomes the strong support given by most respondents to the schemes’ policy objectives.”

But it added: “Any move to universal pricing for electricity network charges would produce winners and losers, with 16 million households seeing increases and reductions for only 11 million households.

“Moving away from the current approach of cost reflective electricity distribution prices would risk an overall increase in network costs, as each network company would be less accountable to its local communities and businesses for costs incurred.

“Ofgem has concluded that there is no compelling case from a regulatory perspective to move to a universal network charge.”

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