Recently, households across the region have been met with exponential hikes in their energy bills amid the price cap crisis.

Many elements have been blamed for the rise.

Political parties have pointed the finger at each other whilst others have blamed supplier greed as well as the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But the reality is, in some cases, a lot of people have had to choose between heating and eating and post-Covid food banks have doubled up as warm banks during the cold, winter months.

At the same time, local authorities were forced to look at their own energy contracts – and figures obtained by The Clydebank Post show how much West Dunbartonshire Council paid to power their offices and other public buildings such as schools and libraries.

The data, compiled by Box Power CIC, a not-for-profit energy consultancy, details how much councils paid for their energy at the peak of the crisis.

How much did WDC pay for energy?

West Dunbartonshire Council paid nearly £8 million to heat and power its buildings in 2022/23.

The local authority paid £7.7m for electricity and gas last year as the cost-of-living and energy price cap crisis took hold.

It is a startling rise of over £2m spent on energy in just 12 months, with WDC having paid £5.3m for power in 2021/22.

The cost was split between £5m on electricity with the remaining £2.7m put down for gas, to buy 23,650,085kWhs of power and 31,199,635kWhs of gas.

It means the local authority paid an average of 21.5p per kWh for their electricity.

The unit price for electricity paid by WDC energy negotiators was higher than that of East Ayrshire, a council that had a similar usage for the period with 23,710,672kWhs.

They paid 14.8p per kWh, spending £3.5m on electricity.

For gas, WDC paid 8.5p per kWh, meaning the 31,199,635kWhs they used cost them £2.6m.

How do councils buy energy?

The way local authorities buy energy differs from how households, and even businesses, buy energy.

Their process is more similar to domestic energy suppliers, whereby they bulk buy energy in advance and have hedging policies in place to ensure they get a good deal.

But public organisations have to either seek a full formal open tender process and buy independently, or they could join an existing framework agreement, according to Box Power.

These are mostly run by Public Buying Organisations, of which the largest is the Crown Commercial Service, while other councils form their own buying group - usually in regional clusters.

Unlike households, who were forced to pay the amount offered by their suppliers, local authorities have access to economies of scale and expert buyers.

This is because they buy energy for their own offices, but also for public places like schools, libraries and swimming pools. Council energy spending also includes street and traffic lights.

Who supplies West Dunbartonshire Council?

The local authority gets its electricity from EDF and its gas from TotalEnergies.

Corin Dalby, Box Power's co-founder and CEO, said: "For the councils that had their energy contract renewed on 1 April of that year, then realistically they could or should have re-tendered up to 12 months earlier to enable them to forward-hedge their Winter 2022 energy before the prices spiked."

What about other nearby local authorities?

Next door East Dunbartonshire spent £6.2m on gas and electricity, but used far less than WDC, according to the research. They paid 21.6p per kWh for electric supplies and 8.5 per kWh for has – the same as WDC.

Argyll & Bute paid even less than that, spending £5.2m for supplies over the 2022/23 period.