Household energy costs are set to go up by 54 per cent in April.
Scots struggling with their rising energy bills have been urged to seek out the help of experts as the cost of living crisis continues.
Last week energy regulator Ofgem announced that the UK’s energy price cap will rise from April, with warnings households could be hit by costs going up by as much as £700 per year.
Bills for the average customer will rise to £1,971, Ofgem said - an annual increase of £693 in England, Wales and Scotland - which means standard tariffs will go up by 54 per cent.
The UK Government announced mitigation measures as the potential costs were unveiled, but campaigners immediately raised concerns about their effectiveness.
Now, charities supporting those struggling with rising everyday costs have said they should make use of schemes designed to alleviate their financial troubles.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is warning about increasing demand for energy advice as new figures from across the CAB network shows the impact of the autumn price cap increase.
In December 2021 CAB advice given in relation to utilities, the majority of which relates to energy, increased by 17 per cent compared to November.
The online advice page - grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills - saw an 87 per cent increase in December 2021, and was five times higher than the pre-pandemic figure.
These figures follow a then record price cap rise of around £140 in October 2021.
Last week CAS revealed data showing a link between demand for food bank advice and energy advice, with 30 per cent of clients seeking food bank advice also seeking help on energy issues.
Analysis of polling commissioned by the charity suggests almost half a million people in Scotland are cutting back on food spending to deal with unaffordable energy bills.
CAS fair markets spokesperson, Kate Morrison, said: “The record price cap increase is a hammer blow for consumers, as the cost of living crisis squeezes household budgets to breaking point.
“Data from across the Citizens Advice network shows the impact of the previous price cap hike in autumn 2021, and we see a big increase in demand for energy related advice. In the case of our online advice pages in December demand was five times higher than the pre pandemic figure.
“The rising cost of living isn’t just energy bills – its prices in the shops too. When this collides with flat or falling incomes from benefits and wages people are faced with this nightmare choice between heating their homes and feeding their families.
“Since December the Citizens Advice network has been running the Big Energy Saving Winter campaign encouraging people to get advice to deal with soaring bills.
“Switching isn’t really an option – what matters is getting more money in people’s pockets in the first place. CABs can help, with an average gain for people who see a financial result from energy advice being around £272.”
This comes as more than 400 charities, organisations and advisers have signed up to refer Scots struggling with their energy bills to a £4million support fund.
The Scottish Government scheme is being administered by national advice service Advice Direct Scotland, and referral partners can still register to help their clients hit by the cost-of-living crisis.
Registrations remain open and applications for financial support can be made until the end of March.
THAW Orkney, a charitable organisation that assists fuel poor households, has been able to secure individual grants averaging around £350 to dozens of households since the fund opened in December.
Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said: “Since launching the scheme, more than 400 referral partners have registered and we’re receiving hundreds of applications on behalf of their clients who are struggling with energy bills.
“This demonstrates the scale of the cost-of-living crisis.
“But we know there are more people out there who need support, so we encourage any charities, housing associations, or community organisations which provide energy or debt advice to register with us.
“This fund will prove absolutely crucial in ensuring that households who have been hit the hardest can continue to heat their homes and feed their families.”
Craig Nisbet, a community support officer at THAW Orkney, told of the huge difference the fund has made to his customers and encouraged other organisations to register to become referral partners.
He said: "Having access to this fund this year means I am making some wonderful phone calls where I'm getting to tell people 'your child will be warm this winter'.
"When we're calling these people, you can feel their shoulders drop, you can feel their tension disappear. There's so much else to worry about at the moment and this is one less weight on them.”