THE week started out rather well. On Monday a visit to the local sports centre for flu and Covid booster jags, on a bright and sunny morning. By Saturday news of a possibly vaccine-resistant strain of Covid came

as a depressing bolt from the blue. Sunday morning brought the first snows of winter and a feeling that the house was a bit cold. The gas-powered central heating had already been on for half an hour but only managed to raise the room temperature to 14C, so I fired up the 2KW fan heater as well. Bacon and eggs seem like a good breakfast choice, so it was on with a couple of rings on the gas cooker. Coffee was next on the menu, so on with the electric kettle. I fired up the laptop and read The National online. I decided it still wasn’t very warm and set the central heating on for another two hours.

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A quick look at the e-mail list shows it has arrived – the dreaded one from my gas and electricity supplier to inform me that my fixed-price deal will run out in a couple of months.

It is far from easy to compare the various tariffs on offer against my current tariff, but as best I can understand, gas has increased from around 3p per unit to almost 8p per unit. Electricity has gone from around 17p to 27p. In inflation terms, that seems a fair bit higher than the 5% currently being quoted by the UK Government. The supplier’s website urges me to take up this new deal at once, rather than wait until my current deal ends, with the veiled threat that these wonderful new prices on offer will soon increase again. My home already has double glazing, LED lighting and cavity wall and loft insulation, so there seems no option but accept the new deal or turn off the heating. The thought of continuing my retirement in the warmer climate of the south of Spain briefly crosses my mind, but Brexit has rendered that a greatly more difficult option.

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The new electricity price is apparently based on 100% green electricity, no doubt from Scotland’s wind and wave farms. Given the amount of wind and wave activity in the past few days, the massive price increases seems particularly ironic.

In 2017 the Scottish Government pledged to set up a publicly owned, not-for-profit company to sell gas and electricity to customers at low prices by 2021. When the plan was announced at the 2017 SNP conference in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said energy would be bought wholesale or generated in Scotland – and sold to customers “as close to cost price as possible”. She said the company would not pay shareholders or corporate bonuses and that its only job would be to secure the lowest price for consumers.

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In their 2021 manifesto, the SNP said that work on the public energy company had been “halted” during the pandemic, and efforts were being “refocused” on a public energy agency. It said the agency would “coordinate and accelerate” the delivery of heat and energy-efficiency work as well as “informing and educating” the public on required changes. I am frankly baffled by the supposed link between Covid and the formation of a Scottish energy company and still have no idea what the “required changes” might amount to.

When asked if the Scottish Government had dropped it altogether, Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said the party “had not anticipated” as great a need for decarbonisation in 2017. Rather than having a state-owned company, he said the Scottish Government hoped to move to a model based on district heating – taking heat energy from a number of different sources and passing it to consumers through insulated pipes. He said this would help meet the target of decarbonising the heating of more than one million homes and 50,000 businesses.

I am not sure how long I will have to wait for this dreams of district heating to reach my home. I suspect 50 to 60 years would a decent guess and at a massive cost. In the meantime it looks like the cartel of current energy suppliers, and their shareholders, will be laughing all the way to their possibly tax-free banks with our hard-earned cash – or I could just turn off the heating!

Brian Lawson