As Bishop raps fuel costs and all that gas . . .

North-east politicians have reacted to the Episcopalian Bishop of Aberdeen’s comment that Scottish Gas are “greedy” for raising prices, despite announcing it made over £600 million last year.

The Right Rev Dr Robert Gillies, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, said that the company’s profit margins were “not so much healthy as greedy.”

The Centrica-owned firm posted record profits of £606 million just three months after putting bills up by 6%.

Dr Gillies added: “In our less tolerant moods we’d think they were robbing from the poor to give to the rich. To put it bluntly, the gas companies bill us mighty fast when their costs go up. But our bills don’t seem to go down when they’re enjoying better times.”

MSP for the North-east Richard Baker, who is also Scottish Labour’s spokesperson on fuel poverty, supported the Bishop’s comments, adding: “These are strong comments from Bishop Robert on the profits made by Centrica and the company must listen to them carefully.

‘‘The Bishop is quite right to highlight concerns with the company increasing profits when it is also putting up prices to customers at a time of rising fuel poverty in Scotland.  High energy bills hit the poorest hardest, and this is a concern in the North-east with our colder climate and one in four of our households living in fuel poverty.

POVERTY

‘‘The key issue now is for Centrica to act on the concerns raised by the Bishop and others. I will now be writing to the company to urge them to step up their work with Government at all levels to tackle fuel poverty. 

‘‘The Scottish Government has set out plans for a £200 million fund to tackle fuel poverty, two thirds of the investment for which is to come from the private sector.

‘‘Centrica should now confirm they will make an appropriate investment in that fund and other national schemes to tackle fuel poverty, and even look to go further given that organisations working in this area say the current funding plans are not sufficient to meet the Scottish Government’s target to eradicate the problem in Scotland by 2016.”

Sir Robert Smith, Liberal Democrat MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said that a longer term solution would be needed to increase energy efficiency: “...the rise in the global price of oil and gas will continue to put pressure on energy bills. In the long term, the best way to reduce bills is by increasing energy efficiency so that households need less gas and electricity in the first place.  That is why measures introduced by the Government to encourage households to insulate their homes and make them more energy efficient are so important.

‘‘These include the Green Deal which will help households introduce energy-saving measures at no up-front cost to themselves.  Other schemes will help vulnerable customers such as the elderly and those on low incomes.

“Of course, many households who are not on the gas grid have to pay even more to heat their homes. It is important that these households are also given support so that they can reduce their reliance on heating oil, LPG or electric heating.”

The Piper contacted Centrica for a comment but received no reply.