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DREW HENDRY: Why is the Highlands being ripped off over energy bills?

By Gavin Musgrove

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We returned to West- minster recently, and I was straight back to business scrutinising the Finance Bill making its way to Parliament.

The cost of living crisis and particularly soaring energy costs people in the Highlands face were at the top of my agenda.

Despite the Highlands’ significant contribution to the UK’s renewable energy (we generate six times the amount of electricity we use and export the vast bulk of it), our communities face some of the highest energy bills in the UK, and we have the highest level of fuel poverty.

To make matters worse, we use more electricity because of the climate, and large parts of our region are off the gas grid.

Yet, we pay over 40 per cent more than Londoners in standing charges.

That’s why, along with my colleague Brendan O’Hara MP, I have launched the Highland Energy Rebate campaign.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has a chance to create a fairer electricity tariff regime.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has a chance to create a fairer electricity tariff regime.

The UK Government Chancellor has proposed a scheme to speed up the construction of new powerlines and generating equipment to compensate those living nearby up to £1000 per year for up to ten years.

So, if he can do that for new installations, what about those already living amongst the generating equipment? After all, the power will still be generated and transmitted by existing as well as new equipment.

He will have to work out a way to implement his proposed plans, so why not consider the technicalities of this scheme at the same time? This would go some way to tackling the outrageous disparity in charges that others and I have been trying to get action on for years.

We will be engaging with stakeholders across communities, organisations, energy companies, local authorities in the region and the Scottish Government to provide as much collaboration and clarity as possible, raising your concerns and highlighting the opportunity.

Ultimately, as energy policy is entirely reserved to the UK Government, the challenge is for the Chancellor to accept the moral imperative here. Introducing the scheme here can also serve as a blueprint for other regions in the future, tackling energy market inequity once and for all.

The scheme’s potential benefits — reducing fuel poverty, supporting local economies, and advancing renewable energy — are substantial.

This report is more than a proposal; it’s an urgent call for action.

We hope this campaign is the start of a wider discussion on addressing inequity in the energy market and the potential positive impact rebate schemes could have on our route to Net Zero.

Of course, as always, changing policy usually takes a long, hard effort, and many people in our community are struggling now.

January is a difficult month for most households, but at a time when bills are higher and the cold weather has settled in, it is more difficult than usual, so if you need more urgent help with anything at all or if you are worried about someone, please seek out support.

My team and I are always on hand to help, and if we don’t have the answer, we will point you in the right direction.

Many local charities and community groups are also eager to help - please don’t suffer alone and in silence.

You can visit the support hub on my website or message me at www.drewhendrymp.scot anytime.

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