Duty to consider the needs of customers in rural areas

Part of Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 15 March 2018.

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Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth) 12:00, 15 March 2018

The new clause seeks to add a clause to the Bill to create duties on Ofgem and the Secretary of State to consider the needs of customers in rural areas and to consider additional protections for them.

The hon. Gentleman spoke about this on Second Reading, and many of us who represent very rural constituencies understand exactly what he is saying. I have been really pleased to learn that, in the north of Scotland, the Government have confirmed their commitment to the hydro benefit replacement scheme, which is worth an average of £41 annually per household in the region.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that costs are in some cases the function of geography—there is this unfortunate thing that it costs more to get electricity down to certain parts of the country. In my own region, the south-west, the peninsular effect creates some unfortunate energy price increases for those living at the end of the grid, as it were. That is something we have long had to live with. I am not saying that that is acceptable, but to date it has been a function of the pricing of energy distribution.

The other issue for many of those representing rural areas, including mine, is that people rely on heating oil or liquefied petroleum gas deliveries, because we are off the grid. Not only can that be a costly proposition, given the spike in heating oil prices, but it is a problem in terms of carbon emissions. As the hon. Gentleman knows from the clean growth strategy, I am determined to phase out fossil fuel heating—not in a way that penalises existing customers—starting with new builds from 2025, and really trying to come up with cost-effective alternatives in future.