Winter energy crisis inevitable warn MPs

MPs on the House of Commons Energy Security Committee have warned that another winter energy crisis is “inevitable” without further Government support for households.

The cross-party Committee took evidence from organisations, including the End Fuel Poverty Coalition members, energy firms and regulators. The final report acknowledges that more support for energy bills will be needed this winter.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members put forward examples of dangerous behaviour that households resorted to in order to try and keep bills down last winter. But despite the Government help for households last winter, almost 5,000 excess winter deaths were caused by living in cold damp homes.

In its final report, the Committee recommended that the energy firms improve the customer service and the empathy shown to households this winter – as well as providing a priority crisis line for charities working with the most vulnerable.

MPs also suggested that the Government must take steps to get 2022 Energy Bills Support Scheme cash to households who missed out, extend the Warm Home Discount and reform cold weather payments. It also recommends radical overhaul of standing charges and the introduction of a social tariff for vulnerable households.

The coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition was one of the experts called to give evidence to the Committee. They commented:

“This is a welcome report full of practical recommendations that could help avert the looming cold homes crisis this winter.

“We’re disappointed there is nothing specific in the report to help the millions of households in debt to their energy firms and who are running just to stand still with their payments. Frontline charities have recently backed proposals sent to ministers to introduce a “Help to Repay” scheme to tackle the growing mountain of energy debt.

“But the big elephant in the room is if the Government will listen to the eminently sensible suggestions from MPs and take urgent action to keep people warm this winter.”

Recently the End Fuel Poverty Coalition wrote to the new Secretary of State to issue a warning about the risks of the winter ahead and to offer additional suggestions to help tackle fuel poverty in the short and long term.

This week the Coalition, which is part of the Warm This Winter campaign, also joined more than 400 organisations to write to the Prime Minister asking the Government to think again about weakening of net zero policies which could cause lasting damage to the UK economy.

For poverty campaigners, the PM’s decision to rule out increased energy efficiency standards comes with serious implications. New Citizens Advice figures revealed that private renters wasted £1.1bn this year on energy that leaks out of their homes, with this figure now set to continue.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said:

“There is a real-life cost to the PM’s posturing – especially for the millions of households who rent from a private landlord. Many will now face high bills and cold damp homes forever after being abandoned by the Government.

“Last winter, the health problems caused by living in cold homes mounted up. The Prime Minister and Energy Secretary should be focussed on providing help for households to survive this winter and improve their living conditions in the long run.

“We need the Government to double down on support for households, including improving energy efficiency and reforming electricity pricing markets to ensure customers can enjoy the advantages of more affordable renewable electricity.”

Welcome for government energy efficiency measures

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition welcomes the government’s moves today to improve energy efficiency of people’s homes. We hope this is the first in a series of announcements that will help end fuel poverty in line with our submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The increase in Energy Performance Certificates to level C for those in private rented accommodation is especially welcome. The next step will be to ensure local authorities enforce these new regulations.

Homeowners in England, including landlords, can get up to £5,000 to pay part of the cost of energy saving measures like insulation. Low income households can get 100% of the costs of work covered up to £10,000.

The scheme will help fund energy efficiency and low carbon heating measures in 600,000 households who could save up to £600 a year on energy bills. Installing energy efficient home improvements also cuts emissions, which is better for the environment. Tradespeople and businesses should make sure they’re eligible to carry out work under the scheme, which will support thousands of green jobs.

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One in three British households are already concerned about the health impacts of living in a cold home this winter. And should a second wave of Covid-19 hit during cold weather, the impact could be catastrophic for individuals and our health services.

As a result, the Coalition has urged the Government to commit to five main spending priorities:

1) Rapid roll-out of large-scale energy efficiency programmes

2) Urgent delivery of government promises on tackling fuel poverty

3) This unprecedented level of investment needs to be coupled with large scale training programmes

4) Immediate steps to improve energy standards in the private rented sector

5) Fuel Poverty Debt Relief to ensure fewer people will have to choose between heating and eating this winter