A major campaign to help individuals and families struggling with their energy bills will be launched across the country today.
Big Energy Saving Week is being run by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), with the aim of encouraging people to seek advice on how they can lower their monthly spending on gas and electricity.
The organisation helped people save £1.3 million from their bills last year, with each cutting an average of £232 from their annual bills.
CAS will be specifically targeting four groups of people during the campaign, including those who have hard-to-heat homes or rely on electric heaters.
Jamie Stewart, the organisation’s fair markets spokesman, said: “People who are in debt to their fuel supplier are frequently blocked from switching to a cheaper tariff, a vicious circle which just makes their circumstances worse and worse.
“Similarly, those living in homes which are hard to heat and potentially difficult or costly to upgrade end up spending more to properly keep their homes at a comfortable temperature.
“Digital exclusion is yet another barrier to saving money on energy bills as it can be hard for people who are not digitally confident or have poor internet access to engage with energy suppliers who only communicate or take payment online.
“And we’re very aware that those with some forms of electric heating can face huge challenges with their energy bills.
“More than half of electric heating users in Scotland are in fuel poverty but for many there is a limited number of energy suppliers who can provide a competitively-priced tariff.
Mike Thornton, director of operation at the Energy Savings Trust, said: “We’re working in partnership with Citizens Advice bureaux across Scotland to ensure as many people as possible can access free and impartial support throughout Big Energy Saving Week.
“Our outreach teams will be in communities delivering money and energy-saving advice and the Home Energy Scotland network of advice centres is just a free phone call away.
“They can tell people how to access Scottish Government funding, how to reduce energy bills and how to keep homes warmer for less.”
New father Steven Sinclair had to rely on seven electric storage heaters to keep his home in Golspie warm following the birth of his daughter.
With central heating unavailable, the 31-year-old said his energy bills some months were “astronomical”.
Due to the age of his two-bedroom property, which he shares with his girlfriend and now six-month-old daughter, Mr Sinclair has few options open for keeping his house warm.
He said: “Some of the heaters have a dial going from one to six, but there’s no heat coming out of them unless they’re on full.
“We have a six-month-old baby and during the night we have to keep the bedroom warm. But the cost of the electricity overnight is a lot as it’s all or nothing.”
The family has since had panel heaters installed in their bedrooms, helping to cut costs and give them more control over the temperature of their home.
Mr Sinclair, who is also an adviser for CAS, said many homes across the north of the country are all-electric and finding themselves in similar situations.
It is common from properties in the area to have a two-meter system to split the heaters from their everyday electricity use.
This works by storing heat and hot water during the day for use in off-peak hours to help keep costs lower than they might otherwise be.
Mr Sinclair said: “We have limited options in Sutherland for changing supplier because of this type of system as it is different to most others.
“But by all means Citizens Advice Scotland can look into this and we are trying to raise awareness of how to manage storage heaters.
“Personally, it was very difficult for us to find out how to get the best from them.”