Why are energy bills rising?
In February 2022, energy regulator Ofgem announced it’s raising the cap on the prices that energy companies are allowed to charge customers by 54%. That means millions of people across the UK will face steeper bills come April.
A price cap is a form of economic regulation that sets a limit on the prices that a utility provider can charge. For example, the price cap allows oil and gas companies to “pass on all reasonable costs to customers, including increases in the cost of buying gas.”
There’s a lot of misinformation over what’s caused the hike in costs, but Ofgem itself states the increase in heating costs is because of a record rise in global gas prices.
Who's to blame for the UK's energy crisis?
Over the past decade, the UK government has failed to invest in insulation, despite calls from environmental and fuel poverty groups.
A whopping 87% of UK households rely on gas. Such overreliance means we’re particularly vulnerable to changes in global prices, and that vulnerability is deepened by the fact our houses are poorly insulated compared to those in other European countries.
For decades successive governments, including this one, have missed opportunities to invest sufficiently in renewable energy. Had they prioritised clean energy and home insulation, the demand for gas to heat homes would be much lower and we’d be less exposed to current prices hikes.
The impact will be devastating, as more people face the choice of either buying food or heating their home. What’s more, with price hikes expected to remain until next winter, health inequalities will widen as households are forced to keep heating switched off. The elderly and clinically vulnerable are most at risk, as colder homes can lead to:
- a higher chance of getting a respiratory infection and bronchitis
- stress on the cardiovascular system
- making asthma symptoms worse, or causing asthma to develop
- an increased risk of mental health problems.
No one should have to prioritise eating or heating, particularly when oil and gas giants are reporting their biggest profits in years. Urgent support is needed to help those most at risk.
What about switching to green energy?
At Friends of the Earth, we're always happy to advise our supporters on how to switch to green energy. We normally recommend that you check out our fantastic partners, Ecotricity or Good Energy. However, due to the ongoing energy crisis, now's not an ideal time to switch energy supplier.
How can we end the energy crisis?
The energy crisis should be a wakeup call for the government to finally do what it should've done years ago and cut ties with the unreliable fossil fuels. It’s outrageous they’ve let it come to this, but it's now clear that we need a more reliable system to heat our homes, once and for all.
The government needs to:
- Urgently impose a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help finance support for the most vulnerable households.
- Implement a longer-term strategy to move to more reliable energy sources and help people insulate their homes.
Together with dozens of other organisations, we’ve written an open letter urging Boris Johnson to act. Our next campaign, focused on home heating, will prioritise the needs of the population over the profits of oil and gas companies.
Ultimately, our vision is of a country where everyone has a warm home that’s heated affordably and sustainable. We know it’s possible.