More people could find themselves in fuel poverty in the coming months because of soaring energy bills.
An independent consumer group has warned that more households will likely owe money to energy providers as bills rise and make it harder for people to pay other costs.
They say more information is needed on the number of customers who are in fuel debt.
Lewis Shand Smith who chairs the Energy Consumers Commission said: “Fuel debt doesn’t just cover heating, fuel debt is actually to do with everything.
“It’s to do with being able to cook meals, to keep your lights on and it’s really important, I think as we face the winter that people are not only able to keep warm but to have hot meals and to help them to keep healthy.”
Gas prices have soared in recent months, with the wholesale price reaching record highs.
It has seen many smaller energy firms collapse and hundreds of thousands of customers shift suppliers.
The energy price cap increased at the start of October putting up the average dual fuel bill by £139 a year.
It’s likely the cap will increase again in the spring of next year.
It means more people could be pushed into fuel poverty.
The definition of fuel poverty is if a household spends more than 10% of its income on fuel costs and the rest of a person income doesn’t allow them to maintain an adequate standard of living.
In 2019 around a quarter of households in Scotland were in fuel poverty.
The worry now is as more people owe money to their energy supplier it will force them further into fuel poverty.
Lewis Shand Smith added: “Undoubtedly that danger is there and we need to do all we can to mitigate that.
“The Government have set ambitious targets for removing fuel poverty but a lot of work is going to have to be done to achieve that, not least getting homes up to scratch.
“I think we will see more people get into fuel poverty but my message is don’t panic, seek help.
“Help is there, speak to your energy supplier about how you’re going to pay for it.
“There is help there; there is advice there so take it.”
Many rural areas are hardest hit when it comes to fuel debt and fuel poverty.
It’s usually because more people use electricity to heat their homes which cost more, there is a higher cost of living and lower income.
The Energy Consumers Commission is now calling on more information to be gathered about the number of customers in fuel debt.
They want energy debt to be included in the Scottish Household Survey and require energy providers to supply debt statistics each year.