STANDING charges need an urgent fix for those in the Highlands and islands as they pay 50 per cent more than those in London, the UK Government has been told.

The Highland Energy Rebate campaign has called for greater equality for those who live in the most northern parts of Scotland who pay one of the highest charges on gas and electricity in the UK.

Residents in the north of Scotland pay a required daily transmission fee of around 61p a day which is 50% more compared to those in London who pay around 40p.

This is despite research by the Parliamentary Library showing that while the population of the Highland Council area comprises only 0.36% of the UK total, the area provides 5.5% of the UK installed capacity for renewables.

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SNP MP Drew Hendry - who launched a petition last week alongside Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O'Hara - said “everything about it is wrong” with the current process for calculating standing charges and it needs an urgent fix.

He said: “What has been going on for far too long has been the fact that people across the Highlands and islands have been paying more for their bills.

“We live in a colder climate, we have higher energy costs, we have more people living off the gas grid, so we have more people relying on electricity as their main energy source.

“On top of that, we also pay the highest electricity standing charges in the UK.

“That’s the charge you have to pay every day, regardless of how hot or cold it is, and you still have to pay the standing charge every day.

“It’s a charge that’s poll tax essentially, which is penalising people from the Highlands and islands. Now, when you add into that mix, we have the highest level of fuel poverty.

“Extreme fuel poverty in the Highlands and islands paints a pretty damning picture of lack of action we have seen from Ofgem and the UK Government.”

The National:

It is estimated by the Parliamentary Library that Scotland has a fuel poverty percentage of 20% compared to England at 13% and Wales at 14%.

According to the Scottish Government, the Highlands and islands have a higher average of residents living in fuel poverty at around 32%, in comparison to the national average of local authorities which is 24%.

Hendry added: “Everything about it is wrong, everything about it is clear, and it needs an urgent fix because people are really suffering.

“Fuel poverty is just a component of absolute poverty.”

Transmission fees are payments made to the National Grid by electricity generators to use the system of cables, pylons, and transformers that transport electricity from generators to consumers.

The charges are set by Ofgem and are calculated on the distance between where the electricity is produced and where it is used and were designed to encourage energy companies to build generators closer to consumers.

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This process has been criticised by the Highland Rebate campaign, who stated that the charges are an unfair economic burden to those who live in more remote parts of the country that produce more energy than they consume.

Hendry believes there are a few measures the UK Government could take to help alleviate the financial strain of the standing charges for residents in the north of Scotland.

He said: “The campaign is to say, 'look, enough is enough, we need some fairness and equity brought back into the situation for the Highlands and islands'.

“If the UK Government doesn’t want to press ahead and scrap standing charges, if they don’t want to introduce a social tariff then what there should be with great urgency is a rebate for those people living in the Highlands and islands and there is a couple of precedents that have been set on that.”

“First of all, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement said people living next to new electricity-generating equipment would be eligible for £1000 a year off their bills for up to 10 years.

“Now if that’s the case for people living next to new electricity-generating equipment, then surely that can be applied to people who are living amongst it.

“The other thing that could be easily adjusted to a more meaningful level is the old and rather redundant hydro benefit scheme which amounts to about £60 a year, which is means tested and a drop in the ocean.

“They could use that to very quickly make it more meaningful for the people in the Highlands and islands.”

The campaign, which launched in January, has been raised with ministers in Parliament and raised with Ofgem by Hendry, who says support for the rebate has been unanimous.

He added: “I’ve yet to find somebody who doesn’t understand that this is a glaring inequity and that the highest area of fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty shouldn’t be paying the most.”