End Fuel Poverty Coalition calls for further Ofgem action

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has called on Ofgem to instigate five urgent reforms to the energy market to help the millions of homes in fuel poverty.

In a letter to the chief executive of the regulator, the Coalition calls for Ofgem to abandon plans to introduce a quarterly price cap increase in January 2023 which will penalise households in the depths of winter.

It also argues that changes to the price cap must be made to support those on pre-payment meters and add consumer protection to consumers who live off-gas and on heat networks.

As record numbers of households face fuel poverty this winter, the Coalition also calls for Ofgem to work with energy suppliers to create a package of additional support from suppliers for this winter.

The package suggested would be similar in scope to that introduced during the Covid pandemic, but enhanced in its ambition given the numbers of people expected to be in fuel poverty this winter and extend to debt relief rather than deferral.

The Coalition also calls for urgent reform of the regressive and punitive standing charges regime that penalises the most vulnerable.

Longer-term, the Coalition has formally requested that Ofgem reviews the operation of the price cap and works with consumer groups to set out reforms to the market that would offer more support to those in fuel poverty.

Campaigners have urged the regulator to consider the introduction of a price ceiling (i.e. a “super cap” set at current levels over which consumers will not have to pay for fair usage) and the introduction of a social tariff or “energy for all allowance.”

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

With a new political will to address the challenge of the millions of homes fuel poverty, we need to see Ofgem taking action to better support households across the country.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action, said:

Ofgem has supported higher charges for people on prepayment meters, and has added to the burden of the standing charge element of bills. Both force people on low incomes to pay for energy at much higher rates than the wealthy. The current crisis makes it urgent to reverse this grotesque injustice and bring in Energy For All – a free band of energy to make sure that everyone can keep warm and keep the lights on.

Ian Preston, director of household energy services at the Centre for Sustainable Energy said:

While we welcome new measures of support, these are only short-term sticking plasters. To help tackle soaring energy bills and cold homes we need a longer-term, large scale home retrofit programme. This must include a green skills strategy to ensure there are enough people to do the work across all trades. We also need more support for energy advice services. CSE’s energy advice line calls are at an all-time high, and it’s going to be another tough winter for so many people unless urgent action is taken.

Rhiannon Hughes, South West London Law Centres, commented:

Some people on prepayment meters do not have the funds to turn their gas on. South West London Law Centres provides debt advice to help people reduce debts and access additional funds but there needs to be permanent solutions. 

The current system is forcing people into crisis and although advice for fuel bills is critical – a better solution is needed. The high cost of services charges on gas prepayment meters mean that people like my uncle disconnect.

My uncle who is partially sighted, a pensioner and works can not afford to put any money on his prepayment meter, when he does have a bit more cash he tries to turn on his gas for heating but because the service charges have been piling up, it has caused so much debt on the meter that any money he puts on will be swallowed in debt repayment, not on heating.

It is already an unjust situation that is due to get worse so needs urgent reform.

Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention added:

The NPC has also written to Ofgem and the Chancellor asking them to work together to urgently look at immediate and long term measures to help those struggling with fast rising energy bills. We are calling for a number of specific actions before the price cap rises again in October to a shocking average of £2,800 a year.

NOTES

Full text of the letter to Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem, also copied to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Chair of the Commons BEIS Committee:

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition would like to thank you for your appearance at the Commons BEIS Committee which sparked the financial support outlined by the Chancellor on 26 May 2022.

With a new political will to address the challenge of the millions of homes in fuel poverty, we would also request that Ofgem reviews the areas where the regulator could better support households across the country.

First, we would urge you to abandon plans for a quarterly price cap and instead move to a three-times a year (at most) model. This would ensure more flexibility in the cap, but also mitigate a devastating January price increase, as predicted by Cornwall Insight, in the middle of winter.

Second, we need to see reform of the price cap itself – especially so that it does more to help those on pre-payment meters and is extended to cover people off-gas and on heat networks.

More broadly, we also need to see Ofgem lead the way to ensure better support for vulnerable customers, including a package of additional support from suppliers for this winter.

This support should be similar in scope to that introduced during the pandemic, but enhanced in its ambition given the numbers of people expected to be in fuel poverty this winter. We would also welcome Ofgem’s views on how it can ensure no-one is disconnected this winter or abandoned by their supplier.

We also need urgent reform of the regressive and punitive standing charges regime that penalises the most vulnerable. These charges should be reduced. In addition, customers should no longer be penalised for the failures in the energy market, which we will highlight as an issue to the Treasury.

Finally, in the longer-term we would request that Ofgem reviews the operation of the price cap and works with consumer groups to set out reforms to the market that would offer more support to those in fuel poverty. This could include the introduction of a price ceiling (i.e. a “super cap” set at current levels over which consumers will not have to pay for fair usage) and the introduction of a social tariff or “energy for all allowance.”

We would welcome the opportunity to speak to you about these issues at a future meeting of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

Energy saving measures could save billions

An expert report has revealed how investing now in energy saving solutions could save the UK Government hundreds of billions in ‘sticking plaster’ solutions this decade.

Experts calculate that the UK government has spent £37bn this year to stand still on soaring costs of living, without meaningful investment in solutions which could permanently reduce bills. With estimates that fossil fuel prices will remain at an unprecedented level until at least 2030, E3G is calling for long-term energy saving solutions to save the Treasury from needing to spend hundreds of billions in ‘sticking plaster’ solutions.

Households living in the least efficient homes will pay around £916 more per year on energy bills when the energy price cap rises to £2,800. If everyone living in homes below Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C were improved to EPC C today, the aggregate saving would be £10.6bn each year.

Independent climate and energy think tank E3G has set out a package of measures to make rapid near-term progress, saving families an average of between £450 – over £1,000 per year.

As well as energy efficiency measures in homes, key measures suggested also include launching an Olympic-style skills and training programme for the retrofit supply chain and making independent energy and retrofit advice readily available to people across the country to share what help is available.

Juliet Phillips, Senior Policy Advisor at E3G and lead author of the report says:

With fossil fuel prices expected to remain sky high until at least 2030, the government must decide whether it wants to go on spending £37bn per year just to stand still – or to invest now in permanent solutions for lower bills, which will pay off multiple times over in the years ahead. Until the structural drivers of the cost of living crisis are addressed, including the cold and leaky nature of our housing, the government could be left spending tens of billions on emergency financial support packages each year.

Stew Horne, head of policy at Energy Saving Trust said:

E3G’s latest report highlights the steps the UK Government should take if it is to help people across the country reduce household energy usage and bills for the long-term. Time is ticking away to make the much-needed improvements to the energy efficiency of UK homes that UK government has committed to this decade. Energy Saving Trust particularly welcomes the report’s proposals for bespoke advice and support for consumers as this will play a vital role in helping make the changes that will permanently reduce the energy required to heat their homes and keep energy costs down.

Coalition responds to Chancellor’s cost of living crisis statement

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members have been responding to today’s announcement by the Government that additional support will be made available following reports of record energy price rises.

A spokesperson for End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

“The Government has agreed in principle that a Windfall Tax is vital and the Chancellor has clearly listened to concerns that support for those in fuel poverty needs to be both widespread, but also focussed on the most vulnerable groups.

“But by October, energy bills will have increased by over £1,500 in a year. So while the measures announced today will take the sting out the tail of recent increases, the underlying problem of millions of households in fuel poverty remains.

“People in fuel poverty will need further reassurance that support will be there in the medium-term and we need full investment in a Great Homes Upgrade to improve the energy efficiency of homes as a national priority.”

Ami McCarthy, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said:

“This windfall tax will serve only as a sticking plaster. While providing support to millions struggling with sky-high energy bills is 100% the right thing to do, by only skimming the top 25% off oil and gas company profits Sunak has missed a huge opportunity to tackle the root cause of the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis together.

“Taxing the full profits at 70% would have more than doubled the cash available. This could have been used to provide short-term relief to households, as well as upgrades to homes to ensure they use and waste less energy, and keep bills low for years to come.

“Instead of driving money into clean energy solutions, Sunak has used this announcement to encourage oil and gas company investments. Yet the current cost-of-living crisis is mostly a result of gas price rises – hard-up families shouldn’t have to wait for the Prime Minister and Chancellor to deliver cheaper and cleaner energy to help with their bills.”

National Energy Action commented:

“By October the average energy bill was predicted to more than double from last year. This vast increase would have pushed millions of households into destitution, turning to desperate measures to stay warm at home. Without additional support, we were facing an utterly disastrous winter. The Chancellor’s new package today averts the darkest of outcomes, offering some hope to the millions of fuel poor households across the UK.

“Millions will still be struggling and the energy crisis is far from over, but a large, more targeted intervention is what was needed ahead of winter.

“The Government urgently needs to plan for energy prices to remain high for the longer term. This must include a social tariff, setting an affordable price of energy for the poorest households. And there must be additional effort into making the homes of fuel poor households more energy efficient, making them more resilient to the sort of price shock that they are currently shouldering.”

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said:

“The Chancellor has importantly acknowledged that life costs more if you are disabled.

“This package is a significant short-term boost to disabled people whose backs are against the wall.

“But inflation and energy prices are still running riot, and disabled people are much more likely to live in poverty.

“Even before the cost of living crisis, disabled people were facing extra costs of almost £600 a month. Many struggling with sky-high bills from needing more energy to charge vital equipment, or extra heating to stay warm.

“Our Disability Energy Support Service has been inundated by disabled people in crisis and nowhere else to turn.

“The Chancellor needs to continue to use the benefit system in the long term to target support at disabled people where it’s needed most. The Government must also make sure that no disabled people fall through the gaps in receiving the support needed to get through this winter and beyond.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

“Age UK is pleased and relieved that the Government has recognised the extreme risks soaring inflation pose to the health and welfare of pensioners, particularly those on low incomes, and has announced a package of measures today with the aim of mitigating them. With prices continuing to go up for everything they buy, life is certainly not going to be easy for many older people over the next few months, but the extra support the Chancellor is bringing forward will make a difference and will protect most from the worst of the unprecedented surge in the cost of living they face.

“Targeting most of the support on offer to pensioners who receive means-tested benefits, that is Pension Credit, was undoubtedly the right thing to do, but as a result it is more important than ever that every older person who qualifies receives their due. We know that some three quarters of a million are missing out at the moment, so we urge anyone who thinks they may be eligible to put in a claim without delay.  If they act quickly, it is possible they may be eligible for some of the additional financial help that is now available, and this could be life-changing for them.

“No one knows what will happen to prices later in the year and it may well be that the Government will need to go further and do more in the autumn Budget, if inflation goes on ratcheting up. At Age UK we will be tracking the experiences of older people, especially those on low incomes, as the months go by.  We will also continue to campaign with others for more investment in energy efficiency and for the reintroduction of a social energy tariff since, in the longer term, these would help pensioners to keep on top of their energy bills and support progress towards our zero carbon targets.

“It is absolutely crucial for older people that the triple lock kicks in again next year, so it was important that the Chancellor restated his commitment to this during his speech. Age UK will hold him to his word.”

Ed Matthew from E3G commented:

“The increased support for households this winter is welcome but the Chancellor has failed to fix the underlying crisis. The UK has the worst insulated homes in western Europe. He could halve household energy demand through efficiency measures alone, but it won’t happen unless he provides the financial support needed. The windfall tax should have been used in part to do that. It’s a missed opportunity and keeps citizens reliant on gas. We will all pay the price for this missed opportunity.”

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action commented:

“Champagne corks will be popping in the  boardrooms of North Sea oil and gas extractors. While in millions of homes, people on low incomes may risk the expense of turning on the kettle and splurging on a cup of tea.

“In the boardrooms they won’t fail to notice that the dreaded, long-delayed windfall tax will remove only £5bn of their £13bn windfall profits.  And even at its temporary peak, UK tax will be lower than the 70% norm for other countries.

“Continuing the UK’s strong record of give-aways to fossil fuel polluters, these giant corporations will get 90p back in tax relief for every pound they invest.  And that investment must go into oil and gas – four times more expensive than wind and solar energy, and costing us all even more than that, through pollution of the air, the sea and the climate.  Rishi Sunak says he doesn’t want to “burden future generations”.  But subsidising fossil fuels may mean they have no future at all.

“Back in the kitchen, some of the sums in the Chancellor’s ‘support’ package will provide much needed relief. But it is hard to feel grateful.  Even the maximum support he has offered to the poorest will not make up the increase in fuel bills this year, let alone the rising cost of food and rents. The missing £8 billion from windfall profits could have done so much to relieve the pain of a decade of cuts, rising prices, overwork, and cold, uninsulated homes!”

Energy bills crisis demands Emergency Budget

Campaigners have urged the Government to deliver an emergency budget to address the cost of living crisis facing the country.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has made the call as Ofgem projections firmed up the nightmare scenario of further energy bill rises this winter. [1]

With the number of homes in fuel poverty expected to surge to 43% by this winter, campaigners have warned only an emergency budget will solve the crisis gripping the country. [2]

A household that was paying GBP1,000 for their energy bills in October 2020 could soon be paying almost three-times that. And with inflationary pressures also affecting food prices, the outlook is bleak.

If fuel poverty levels hit the limits predicted, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates that thousands of additional winter deaths will take place due to cold homes in 2022/23 – mainly among the elderly and vulnerable. [3]

To avoid the predicted disaster, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, has called on the Chancellor to deliver an emergency budget consisting of:

  • A 50% Windfall Tax on all Energy Production Firms Profits yielding revenue well in excess of GBP20bn, this may have to be levied every year until the Price Cap returns to a more affordable rate or the market is reformed. [4]
  • An annual Anti-Fuel Poverty Payment (AFPP) of GBP1,800 to the lowest income households, including those newly facing fuel poverty this winter. [5]
  • A one off £20,000 investment in each of the fuel poor households in the UK that are dependent on oil, LPG or coal for heating to improve their homes so they are well insulated and using a cheaper, less-polluting fuel – heat pump or new night storage heaters.
  • In future years, any excess revenue generated by the Windfall Tax could raise additional funding for the Emergency Hardship Funds available to local authorities and charitable organisations working with vulnerable groups to deploy.

In addition to the Windfall Tax, the Government must urgently fulfil the promises made in its 2019 Conservative party election manifesto that would help lower energy bills by investing £9.2bn in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals in England, including £2.5bn for the Home Upgrade Grant Scheme. To date, less than half of the Government’s 2019 manifesto pledges on fuel poverty have been committed. 

The Coalition has also urged BEIS to launch a fundamental review of the UK Energy Market to address concerns which will persist even after the emergency financial measures suggested. This review should consider alternative proposals put forward by campaigners such as the idea of “social tariffs” or a state-funded energy allowance for all.

For example, the average unit of gas has been sold up to 22 times before it gets to customers’ meters, meaning several private firms all making fuel bills that much higher. Consumers have also been required to bail out the costs of 31 companies going bankrupt as a result of Ofgem’s inadequate regulation. [6]

Dr Brenda Boardman, Emeritus Fellow, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, commented:

The injustice of it all is just incredible. We desperately need an energy market that is designed around the needs of the consumers, not the needs of the suppliers. This is, after all, a basic necessity, that is ultimately about life and death, as well as comfort, good health and child development.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition added:

Previous measures implemented by the Government to tackle fuel poverty do not scratch the surface and the majority of the help has gone to all households, not necessarily those in fuel poverty specifically. Significant sums have also been spent on the petrol and diesel rebate, which goes to better-off households, who own cars and drive the most.

Only an emergency budget will ensure the measures can be introduced to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action commented:

With over 40% of UK households in or heading for fuel poverty, we need more than pitiful handouts to prevent a widespread health crisis, miserable children, and more deaths. The energy system should be turned on its head to ensure we pay less per unit if we use less energy – not more. Ofgem has loaded the costs of failing suppliers onto the standing charge – the part of the bill we  can’t escape no matter how much we cut down. The injustice of this charge must be urgently reversed, as a first step towards #EnergyForAll. Energy security begins at home.

William Baker from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty (STEP) commented:

We are facing a humanitarian crisis this winter unless the Government takes immediate action to ensure low income households can afford their fuel. It must also embark on an ambitious programme to reduce energy demand by insulating our homes; such a programme will reduce fuel poverty, improve energy security, reduce pressure on our health services and give a much needed boost to the economy.  

Tamara Sandoul from Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) commented:

Another big rise in the cost of energy will have serious consequences for people’s health and wellbeing. Living in cold homes will hit the most vulnerable hardest – the elderly, those on low incomes, children and those with existing health conditions. The Government needs to act quickly to protect the most vulnerable in our society from the effects of this unprecedented rise in the cost of energy and the cost of living.

Jo Gilbert from CUBES (Customer Utility Bills Expertly Serviced) commented:

When thousands of death’s were predicted due to the Covid-19 pandemic the government stepped in and took measures to safeguard the vulnerable. We are now in a very real ‘Poverty Pandemic’ and thousands of people will freeze and die from cold related illness. The government must take immediate action, as they did with covid-19 to prevent this humanitarian crisis from emerging more than it already has.

Jacky Peacock, Head of Policy at Advice for Renters commented,

The 450,000 private renters who emerged from the pandemic with arrears of rent. now face unaffordable fuel bills.  Without decisive action now, we will see an explosion of evictions and homelessness with a cost to the public purse in excess of the measures to reduce fuel poverty being proposed by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] Ofgem has suggested that the price rise will be an additional GBP829, taking the price cap to GBP2800 – an additional increase in bills of 42%.

[2] The rise in bills will result in an additional number of households in fuel poverty. According to Ofgem across the UK 12m households will be in fuel poverty this winter, 43% of the 28.1m households.

[3] Overall the End Fuel Poverty Coalition and National Energy Action estimate that based on a five year average, between 8,000 to 10,000 people across the United Kingdom die prematurely during the winter due to the impact of cold homes.  This is based on World Health Organisation modelling that at least 30% of Excess Winter Deaths are attributable to a cold home.

In 2019 there were 3.1m households in fuel poverty in England (official Government figures) and the average winter deaths mid-point would have been 9,000 (i.e. 0.3% of fuel poor homes are likely to have registered a “excess winter death”). If the numbers of fuel poor increase to the levels predicted, so could the numbers of people who die as a result of cold homes. If the figures of excess winter deaths remained proportionate to the levels of people in fuel poverty, this could see 22,500 excess winter deaths, pro rata. However, this assumption will need to be tested and checked against official figures in winter 2022/23 so is only for illustrative purposes.

[4] GBP20bn would be raised from Shell and BP alone, based solely on their 2020-21 profits. In the last quarter, their profits were even higher.

[5] GBP1800 based on the difference between the Ofgem prediction for winter 2022/23 and GBP1,000 cap which was more manageable for those in fuel poverty. This could be adjusted every year. Alternative measures have been suggested by other campaigners, such as the reversal of Universal Credit cuts or expansion of rebate schemes.

[6] “22 times” churn: https://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/European-traded-gas-hubs-an-updated-analysis-on-liquidity-maturity-and-barriers-to-market-integration-OIES-Energy-Insight.pdf (table 4, p11). Experts predict this number may have fallen slightly since the table was compiled, but the principles of the market remain.

“31 suppliers”: https://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/energy/failed-uk-energy-suppliers-update/

Coalition condemns utterly devastating price rises

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, has commented on Ofgem’s estimates that the price cap will increase to £2,800 from 1 October 2022 and predictions that 12m households could be in fuel poverty across the UK this winter.

This news will be utterly devastating for millions of homes currently in fuel poverty – and for millions more households who will now spend this winter struggling to keep themselves warm.

Fuel poverty becomes a public health emergency in winter and the hidden cost of the UK Government’s continued inaction will be felt in a collapse in the mental health of those in fuel poverty, increased pressure on the NHS from those with health conditions affected by damp properties and excess winter deaths caused by cold homes.

Unless the Government acts now, it will have blood on its hands this winter.

The Government must urgently impose a windfall tax on energy production firms to help those most in need, invest in a Great Homes Upgrade to improve energy efficiency of buildings and deliver a renewable-led secure energy infrastructure.

James Taylor, Executive Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope which are members of the Coalition, said:

The impact of the price cap rising by £1,500 in a year will be horrific. Many disabled people are already forced to commit a large amount of their income to energy costs.

Disabled people often rely on energy intensive equipment like electric wheelchairs, electric hoists, or monitors.

We’ve heard from disabled people who must choose between charging vital equipment and heating their home. Others are going without food so that their children can eat.

Our Disability Energy Support service has been inundated by disabled people in crisis with nowhere else to turn.

Disabled people cannot wait any longer for Government intervention. We need to see benefits rise in line with inflation, disabled people included in any expansion of the Warm Home Discount and a further increase in funding to the Household Support Fund.

In comments on Twitter, National Energy Action also described the proposed increases as catastrophic.

Children set to suffer as energy bills rocket

Sky News has exclusively revealed  new End Fuel Poverty Coalition calculations that show the impact of the energy bills crisis on households with children.

Figures predict that recent rises in energy bills will take the number of households with children in fuel poverty to over 2.5m from 1 April 2022.

The figure exceeds previous calculations and represents the number of children in fuel poverty doubling since 2019.

As a percentage of all households with children, this will rise from 19.4% in fuel poverty in 2019 to an estimated 38.6% after the next Ofgem Price Cap increase which comes in on 1 April 2022.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition predicts that over half (55.7%) of lone-parent households (855,938) will be in fuel poverty from 1 April 2022. The figure is 33.4% for couples with dependent children (1.69m).

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition told Sky News, which first reported on the figures:

The stark reality of life under the Government’s energy bill crisis is clear to see. Among the worst affected will be the most vulnerable, including children.

Expert studies show that living in fuel poverty can have a detrimental impact on children’s health, well-being and even their ability to learn.

The measures already announced by the Government hardly scratch the surface of the support needed.

We need to see a full package of measures to help those in fuel poverty now alongside urgent work to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and move the country to a secure, sustainable, non-fossil fuel based energy supply.

Public Health England report found that cold homes and poor housing conditions have been linked with a range of health problems in children. And a Childhood Trust report found that fuel poverty can also have a number of indirect impacts, such as lower rates of educational attainment in school, and a strain upon young people’s mental health.

Recently, the British Medical Journal reported:

Children growing up in cold, damp, and mouldy homes with inadequate ventilation have higher than average rates of respiratory infections and asthma, chronic ill health, and disability. They are also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and slower physical growth and cognitive development.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, commented:

It is deeply worrying that the number of families in fuel poverty is set to double this spring. These figures show that this year, a child in a single parent family is more likely to experience fuel poverty than not. That simply can’t be right and the UK government must do more to protect families.

We’re already seeing families having to make impossible choices between heating their homes and feeding their children, and parents we work with say they just don’t know what they’re going to cut back on next. A further increase in energy bills will leave even more children living in cold and damp homes, going to bed hungry, and missing out on the opportunities they need to grow and thrive.

The best way of supporting families through this crisis is by making sure benefits keep up with rising costs – but right now, they’re on track for a real terms cut. The UK government must act to support families and make sure benefits increase in line with inflation.

Image: Shutterstock

Joint call for action on fuel poverty and fossil fuels cut

Civil society groups – including the End Fuel Poverty Coalition – have called for greater action on fuel poverty and to cut fossil fuels in the Government’s upcoming Energy Independence Plan

37 organisations spanning fuel poverty, social justice and environmental campaigns wrote to the government on 15 March 2022 calling for greater support for vulnerable households and for decarbonisation to help bolster the UK’s energy security in the imminent Energy Independence Plan and Spring Statement.

The joint letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Business Secretary, calls for immediate extra support for households facing huge energy price rises, scaled up measures to reduce our gas use and a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Measures called for include targeted support that covers the expected rise in energy bills for households on low incomes, long term funding and support for insulation and heat pumps, an expansion of wind and solar energy, and a commitment to rule out new North Sea oil and gas and keep the fracking ban in place.

The letter calls on the government to “ensure the upcoming energy independence plan protects vulnerable households, lowers bills, tackles the climate emergency, addresses air pollution, and gets the UK off gas.”

Juliet Phillips, Senior Policy Advisor at E3G said:

Green homes are the most obvious energy security solution which no one is talking about. Energy security starts at home: this means supercharging a renovation wave to cut energy bills and permanently reduce the exposure of families to volatile international gas markets – boosting energy efficiency and rolling out electric heat pumps. The Chancellor and Prime Minister must seize the moment and push forward an ambitious, long-term plan to support warmer, healthier homes which are cheaper to run.

Rebecca Newsom, Head of Politics at Greenpeace UK said:

This is a fossil fuel crisis, and new fossil fuels from the likes of fracking or new North Sea oil and gas aren’t going to solve our problems. We can reach true energy freedom and stand up to Putin, but that needs the government to back properly funded measures to support households, accelerate renewables and properly fund home upgrades to reduce our use of gas altogether. Otherwise this risks being yet another plan that props up our dependence on volatile and expensive fossil fuels at just the moment we can least afford it.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact, Save the Children UK said:

 The cost-of-living crisis, fuelled by soaring energy prices, is totally unsustainable and is hitting the lowest-income families the hardest.

Parents are telling us that they’re struggling to meet basic needs, leaving them having to make impossible choices between heating their homes and buying clothes for their children, and children are paying the price.  Without action, things are only going to get harder.

In the upcoming Spring Statement, the Chancellor has an opportunity to ease this burden on families by uprating benefits in line with April’s inflation rate, and invest to keep homes warm and bring fuel bills down.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition added:

We’re now seeing the dire consequences of the energy bill crisis come to fruition.

Up and down the country people are scared about how they will make ends meet come 1 April 2022.

A British Medical Journal paper published last week also set out the frightening health consequences for people living in cold, damp homes.

We need greater urgent financial assistance throughout 2022/23 for those in fuel poverty and a long term plan that will rapidly improve energy efficiency of homes across the country.

Global demand to end fossil fuel addiction feeding Putin’s war machine

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has joined hundreds of organisations from dozens of countries in expressing solidarity with the Ukrainian people in a collective call on world governments to end fossil fuel production.

The current crisis sees Putin weaponising oil and gas money to threaten livelihoods and fuel terror with escalating violence, underscoring the fossil fuel system’s role in driving conflict.

This war is a fight for Ukrainians’ own freedom, but more broadly, a fight for self-determination worldwide.

The letter — initiated by a dozen Ukrainian climate organisations — recognises that this war is a “grave violation of human rights, international law and global peace” fuelled by the oil and gas money that powers Putin’s war machine.

40% of Russia’s federal budget comes from oil and gas, which also make up 60% of Russia’s exports.

The letter urges governments to use all nonviolent means necessary to stop Putin and his war machine, restore peace, and end this egregious murderous aggression.

Governments must work together to manage transition to a clean and safe renewable energy in a way that is fast and fair.

This also means stopping all trade and ending investment in Gazprom, Rosneft, Transneft, Surgutneftegas, LukOil, Russian Coal and others, seeing a cease to all financial services for Russian energy companies operating in the coal, oil and gas sectors.

Commenting on the crisis, a spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said:

The invasion of Ukraine is an obscene act of terror by the Russian state.

Our Members have been warning for years that fuel poverty is a social justice crisis, a public health emergency and a national security priority, but the UK Government took little action.

And the solution to fuel poverty does not lie in fossil fuels.

We now need urgent help for households in fuel poverty now combined with a long-term plan to improve energy efficiency of our homes and a sustainable, renewable-led, energy mix.

While any further rises to already sky high energy bills are a huge concern to the millions of people facing fuel poverty, any attempts to push all the responsibility for the energy bills crisis onto the Russian invasion does not give the whole picture.

Any pain which is suffered by the British public as a result of increased energy prices is a political decision by the UK Government.

The Government has talked about this for long enough, but fails to match words with action – the Chancellor’s attempt to provide support for people through a “loans dressed up as grants” scheme is a prime example of this.

Charities unite in call for funding to tackle energy bill crisis

An alliance of 27 major charities have today written to the Prime Minister and Chancellor, calling for urgent action to tackle the energy bill crisis, including boosting insulation funding.

The charities, which include Save the Children, Age UK, WWF, Green Alliance, Faith for the Climate, Tearfund and Greenpeace, are calling for emergency funding to support the most vulnerable and for insulation and clean energy funding to be increased to help wean the UK off expensive gas.

Without urgent government action the energy price cap could be increased by £600 in April, driven by the surging price of gas on the international markets, taking an average energy bill to around £2000.

The charities estimate that fuel poverty could increase by 50%, from 4 to 6 million households across the UK. There are fears this will lead to households choosing between heating and eating, an increase in the number of people dying in cold homes and a greater burden on the NHS, when it is already under great strain.

The charities remind the Prime Minister that a cut in support for making homes energy efficient after the last surge in energy bills in 2013 left households far more vulnerable to surging gas prices.

As a result of the Energy Company Obligation levy being cut in half and the Warm Front programme for the fuel poor being abolished, millions of British homes have not been insulated.  The cuts led to a 90% cut in loft and cavity wall insulation measures and half of those in the insulation industry lost their jobs. The charities warn that insulation rates have still not recovered and the same mistake must not be made today.

Juliet Phillips of the climate change think tank E3G said:

The Energy Company Obligation is the biggest programme the government has to insulate the homes of the fuel poor. Any damage to this levy would make these households more dependent upon gas, entrenching the crisis further.

Improving the efficiency of the worst performing UK homes could provide bill savings of over £500 every year per household upgraded, an aggregate saving of around £8bn

Investing in UK green energy and technologies like heat pumps would also help end the UK’s reliance on fossil gas. Renewables have helped to keep electricity prices from soaring as much as gas prices, as cheaper wind and solar cushion the increased expense of using gas to generate electricity.

The charities are also calling for emergency support for the most vulnerable, funded in part by a windfall tax on the fossil fuel industry, who are due to make profits up to ten times higher this financial year due to the surge in wholesale prices.

They are recommending expanding the Warm Homes Discount to ensure the majority of the expected rise in energy bills is covered for the most vulnerable households, for example those on universal credit and providing a one-off payment to those eligible for Cold Weather Payments.

The charities are also joining calls for legacy costs for renewables to be moved off power bills, to be paid for by the Exchequer instead, whilst leaving the Energy Company Obligation on the energy bill as a critical levy to help the fuel poor. They calculate that this would save households an additional £100 a year.

The charities also want the Government to fulfil its manifesto commitment to spend £6 billion on making homes more energy efficient. There is a £2 billion black hole in the funding committed after the Spending Review which they say must be filled, most of which was meant to go to the fuel poor.

Two thirds of households having no access in the UK to any insulation grant scheme. The charities want a new insulation grant programme set up to replace the failed Green Homes Grant which anyone can access.

The charities also call on the Government to ramp up the heat pump grant programme due to launch in April with ten times more funding, boosting it from £400m to a £4 billion programme, to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel boilers.

William Baker of Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty said:

The Energy Company Obligation is central to the Government’s legal duty to abolish fuel poverty by 2030. Scrapping the programme would show the Government does not take its statutory responsibilities seriously. It would condemn many fuel poor households to unaffordable fuel bills, ill health and in the worst cases death as a result of living in dangerously cold, unhealthy homes. The government must take urgent action to address the current crisis of rocketing fuel bills and expand its programmes to upgrade the insulation and heating systems of our notoriously leaky homes so that we are less dependent on volatile gas markets.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children said:

The cost of living crisis, fuelled by soaring energy prices, is totally unsustainable and is hitting the lowest income families the hardest. Parents we work with tell us that they’re struggling to meet basic needs, leaving them having to make impossible choices between heating their homes and buying clothes for their children. And children are paying the price. Children deserve a fair and green future, and need a concrete plan from the UK Government that tackles both the cost-of-living and climate crises.

Dr Doug Parr, Policy Director at Greenpeace UK said:

The twin imperatives of a gas price crisis and the climate crisis mean we need to get off fossil fuels as fast as we can whilst protecting people on low incomes. That means we need to see short-term support for fuel poor families and long term support for energy efficiency and cheap renewables. A windfall tax on oil and gas companies would be a fair way to help finance the transition as we exit fossil fuel production in line with advice from leading experts at the International Energy Agency.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, which was also a signatory to the letter, commented:

After years of tireless campaigning by health, anti-poverty and environmental charities, trade unions and researchers, politicians are finally waking up to the tragedy of fuel poverty in the country.

Fuel poverty is a public health and social crisis but can only be solved by economic measures and the Government must do everything possible to help people in crisis now while investing in energy efficiency programmes to fix the long-term problems.

The full letter is available to read online.