This blog was contributed by Ed Matthew, Director of the Energy Bill Revolution.
The recent prediction from the energy regulator OFGEM that energy bills are likely to rise as the UK becomes more dependent on gas is more bad news for British households facing ever mounting financial pressure.
The average dual fuel energy bill now costs a household over £1,400 each year. As the energy bills bite, fuel poverty is now rocketing out of control, affecting 1 in 4 families in the UK. A fuel poverty crisis is unfolding before our eyes.
Behind these figures lies a real human tragedy. Thousands of older people die from the cold every year and in extreme cases people are left with the stark choice of whether to feed their family or heat their home. Many of those most affected are the most vulnerable, older people, the disabled and young children.
The reaction of the Government to this crisis is lamentable. Despite their protestations that they are doing all they can to help the figures speak for themselves. They have cut spending on the fuel poor by 26% and slashed funding for energy efficiency measures for the fuel poor by 44%. This is despite the fact that experts recognise by far the best long term solution to fuel poverty is to super insulate the UK housing stock. The result is that fuel poverty is getting worse and by 2016 there could be up to 9 million households in fuel poverty.
But there is a solution and it is fair and affordable. The Energy Bill Revolution is an alliance campaign to help everyone to have a warm home and to end fuel poverty. Age UK is a core and highly valued member of this alliance. Together we are calling on the Government to use the revenues from carbon tax, which ends up on all our energy bills, to insulate UK homes, prioritising those most in need.
The Government will rake in an average of £4 billion per year in carbon tax over the next decade alone and it will steadily rise. This is enough to give £6,500 to over half a million households every year to insulate their homes. In time every UK home could be treated. And in case you thought that was expensive, according to one of the most prestigious economic institutes in the UK, Cambridge Econometrics, it would create more jobs and growth for the money invested than anything else the Government could do. The reason is that super-insulation is a job intensive activity and it would save the average household over £400 per year, every year on their gas bill.
The Energy Bill Revolution is supported by over 100 major national charities and businesses and is being discussed in public meetings across the UK this winter. Such a wide range of stakeholders have come together because this solution makes sense. It can help wean the UK off fossil fuels, end the blight of fuel poverty and re-build Britain. Every year the Government fails to act costs more lives. There is not a moment to lose.
Age UK is supporting the Energy Bill Revolution campaign. You can sign the petition and email your MP here.
Find out more about Age UK’s Spread the Warmth campaign and why we need to protect the health of older people in winter at www.spreadthewarmth.org.uk