Hundreds of households across the region face being plunged into fuel poverty after energy regular Ofgem announced yesterday that bills will soar by £693 per year from the beginning of April.
Age Scotland has warned the 54 per cent rise will “make life considerably harder for thousands of older people”.
Dumfries pensioner, Chick McKenna, is spearheading an eating or heating petition to lobby for a better deal for people facing the rise.
Mr McKenna, 76, whose own electricity bill has increased by more than 100 per cent, said: “A number of people have contacted me to say that they too are going to be faced with difficult choices. All of them are facing increases of 100 per cent or more from the end of their current tariff.
“We cannot continue to live in conditions where people have to choose between heating and eating.”
South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper is backing Mr McKenna and has also called for “urgent tangible action” over the rise in energy costs.
She said: “My constituents are now facing the Treasury’s decision to increase National Insurance and have already experienced one rise in energy prices last autumn.
“Now, unbelievably, they face yet another rise in energy prices due in April.
“The combined costs of all of this to individual households is simply staggering.”
She said the Scottish Government are using “all returned powers and resources available” to support people in Scotland including through energy efficiency investment and Home Energy Scotland advice, support on housing costs, child winter heating assistance, welfare and debt advice services, the money talks team service and support on food insecurity.
Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, the country’s national advice service added: “This sharp rise will be a devastating blow for many households across Scotland. It will cause deep anxiety and financial worries, leaving many people facing the stark choice of heating or eating.”
And Age Scotland’s chief executive, Brian Sloan, said: “This eye-watering increase to the energy price cap confirms our worst fears.
“Our research has always identified energy bills as the main cause for financial concern among older people, so this news will only serve to compound their anxieties.
“At a time when many are already feeling under pressure due to rapidly rising energy bills, news that bills are set to rise further still will put those already struggling in an extremely difficult position.
“Those with a prepayment meter and who may already be financially squeezed or in debt to their energy company are set to pay the most. That just doesn’t feel fair or right at all.
“Making ends meet in the face of the price cap rise will be tougher than ever before, particularly for those on low and fixed incomes.”
More than a quarter of people in Dumfries and Galloway are currently living in fuel poverty.
Figures from Energy Action Scotland show that 24 per cent of households across the country are living in fuel poverty – which means they are spending more than a tenth of their income after household costs have been deducted.
But in Dumfries and Galloway, the figure is 29 per cent – the eighth highest among the country’s 32 local authorities.