AS average fuel bills nudge towards the £4000 mark, it is inevitable that one’s thoughts turn to ways of avoiding or reducing bills. Brexit and the 90-day rule have made dreams of a long-term retirement to a warmer climate in southern Europe a thing of the past.

The difficulty in obtaining a cost-effective supply of wood, coal or even peat in the central belt – along with the lack of a suitable chimney in my home – rule out most carbon-based solutions.

Given that electricity is apparently cheaper in France, perhaps a solution lies in cancelling my contract with so-called “Scottish” Power and its ever-more-costly allegedly wind-generated electricity and signing up with EDF (Electricite de France), which has been effectively taken over by the French government. The thought of heating and lighting my home with nuclear-generated French electricity is far from ideal but perhaps I could live with it.

In the mad, mad world of electricity supply, figures from the National Grid have revealed that since the start of April, the UK has actually been a net exporter of electricity to Europe, powering countries including France, Belgium and the Netherlands through subsea cables. Electricity prices are generally lower in Europe, so presumably this means that, for example, French consumers are paying less for electricity generated in Scotland than consumers in Scotland.

Given that at times electricity flows in the other direction over these subsea cables, I wonder why I cannot buy some electricity at a lower price from the French government, our former EU friends and neighbours. Electricity travels at the speed of light and so there should be no technical reason that I cannot buy it from France.

One problem I can see in this cunning plan is the fact that we are all effectively being held to ransom by the owners of the transmission system – National Grid plc which, along with the assorted suppliers of gas and oil are apparently intent on bleeding us all dry. Just out of interest, I visited the EDF UK website fully expecting to see a quotation based on UK energy prices but instead received the message.

“We’re sorry we can’t offer you a quote online today. Due to ongoing energy market volatility, we don’t have any fixed energy tariff deals available.”

C’est de la folie – It is madness.

Brian Lawson

ONE thing that seems to be almost completely absent from any of the announcements from the current Chancellor, the Prime Minister and the two candidates to replace him is the impact the energy price is having on the cost of living as a whole, as opposed to domestic energy bills.

If the soaring rate of inflation is to be tackled, a much more fundamental approach is needed. The answer to this will not be found in ever-increasing interest rates, general tax cuts or incessant railing against people who would like an inflation-linked pay rise. None of these will solve the underlying problem that is driving millions into poverty and many small to medium-sized businesses towards bankruptcy.

Freezing the domestic energy price cap will not help reduce general inflation and will result in the government having to bail out energy supply companies. The only sensible solution is temporary, or preferably permanent restructuring of the wholesale energy market to push more of the burden back on to the energy producers, where the vast bulk of the excess profits are being made.

A windfall tax seems a clumsy and illogical method of addressing these profits, particularly when the proceeds vanish into the abyss of general taxation while the government continues on its increasingly ineffectual course.

Cameron Crawford