Rural areas in Scotland still have low levels of energy switching despite a greater number of tariffs now being available, research from Citizens Advice Scotland has revealed.

The statistics released last week as part of “Big Energy Savings Week” show noticeable differences in energy switching rates across the country.

Big Energy Savings Week is an initiative by Citizens Advice Scotland, Home Energy Scotland, Citizens Advice and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to help people cut their energy bills and get any financial support they are entitled to.

East Renfrewshire was revealed as the local authority area where customers are most likely to switch supplier, with 22.4 per cent of households switching last year.

The top five areas in Scotland for switching supplier during 2018 are:

  • East Renfrewshire – 22.4 per cent
  • Midlothian – 21.3 per cent
  • Fife – 21.1 per cent
  • East Dunbartonshire – 21.1 per cent
  • Clackmannanshire – 20.9 per cent

Yet in rural and island areas, switching rates were found to be lower.

The five local authority areas where customers are least likely to switch are:

  • Shetland Islands – 9.9 per cent
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – 14 per cent
  • Highland – 14.7 per cent
  • Argyll & Bute – 14.8 per cent
  • Orkney Islands – 14.9 per cent

In response to the figures, Emma Grant McColm, energy policy manager at Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “The figures show that there is huge variation across Scotland in rates of switching energy supplier.

“Big Energy Saving Week aims to tackle fuel poverty by raising awareness of ways that consumers can keep their energy bills down and helping them to find better deals, discounts, grants and help.

“We know there are still large numbers of people paying over the odds on their energy bills.

“Although the energy market is changing because of the introduction of the price cap, there are still substantial savings to be made.”

McColm also said that many clients of Citizens Advice Scotland are struggling to pay their energy bills, with 38,000 energy cases dealt with in 2017/18.

She added: “In 2017, 24.9 per cent of households across Scotland were estimated to be in fuel poverty – heating or eating is a real choice for many people and we would urge anyone struggling with their energy bills to get in touch with their local bureau.”

Harry Mayers, head of home energy Scotland, said: “Home Energy Scotland works all year round to help Scottish households reduce their energy bills and heat their homes efficiently, and we are pleased to be working in partnership with Citizens Advice Scotland.”

Ken McRae, general manager at Norwich-based Pixie Energy, said: “Switching rates in Scotland are only slightly less than the UK average; however, there is a significant disparity across Scotland in the rates at which households switch their energy supplier, with residents in the north switching energy far less frequently, despite the potential savings available.

“Historically, rural and island areas had a limited choice of tariffs, but now a similar number of tariffs are available to customers in these areas as are available to customers in the central and southern region.

“As further research from Pixie Energy shows, tariffs available in the north of Scotland are, on average, only £35 more expensive than those available in the south of Scotland.

“Additionally, 85.1 per cent of households in northern Scotland have an account with a larger supplier, who typically offer more expensive deals than several other independent suppliers.

“These households stand to make significant savings on their energy bills.”

Figures published on 21 January show that 2018 was a “record year” for switching in the UK, with more than 5.8 million making a change.

This represents one in five customers and is a six per cent increase on the previous year’s record figures when 5.5 million customers switched electricity supplier.