Rising energy bills are “not just a winter crisis” as further increases are expected in the spring, MSPs have been told.
Around 100,000 more households are expected to go into fuel poverty as a result of a number of factors, including people spending more time at home during the pandemic.
The recent collapse of a number of energy suppliers is also expected to push prices up.
Holyrood’s Social Security committee heard from a group of experts on Thursday as the MSPs examined the Scottish Government’s proposed fuel poverty strategy.
In written evidence, Citizens Advice Scotland said it is seeing “a perfect storm of pressures on households” due to the end of the Universal Credit uplift and increases in the wholesale price of gas.
Senior policy officer Alistair Wilcox told the committee: “As has been well publicised over the last two or three months, energy prices are increasing substantially this winter.
“What is perhaps less well understood is that this is not just a winter crisis.
“We’re already expecting the price cap to increase by another 40% in the spring based on economic modelling.
“It’s certainly looking like a painful spring next year and actually the cost of supplier failures is likely to put an upward pressure on energy bills for the next two or three years.”
Mr Wilcox said there is growing concern around how little time there is to bring in schemes to address these issues.
Frazer Scott, chief executive of Energy Action Scotland, said around 100,000 additional households will struggle to pay their energy costs.
Pre-pandemic, around 600,000 households were in fuel poverty.
He said: “It doesn’t feel fair that over one in four households in Scotland live with fuel poverty.
“We’re a wealthy nation, and 2,000 or more people die every winter and over the summer months largely as a consequence of living in fuel poverty.”
Mr Scott said the schemes which exist to help people pay bills should be better targeted at those most in need.
This includes the Winter Fuel Payment, which the Scottish Government is about to take responsibility for.
He said: “It may be unpopular to say but people who don’t need it, whose shoulders are broader, shouldn’t receive it.
“It needs to be targeted at those who need help the most.”
The spring energy price cap rise could add an extra £500 to the average household bill, he said.