Energy crisis 2022: urgent support needed to keep homes warm
Across the UK, cold homes are already damaging the lives of the poorest households and the number of households in fuel poverty is estimated to increase by 50%. The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), one of the UK’s leading charities supporting people in cold homes, has seen more people than ever reaching out for support.
Ian Preston’s latest take on the situation …
CSE is predicting significant increases in energy bills for people across the UK. National Energy Action (NEA) of which CSE is a member, says this will be “a disaster for those who were already struggling to pay their bills and could leave over 6 million households in fuel poverty across the UK.”
Many households can expect to see around a £400-£600 hike on their energy bills in 2022 and this could land earlier in the year than previously thought. Ofgem, the energy industry regulator, has a price cap currently protecting customers from even higher bills but it’s urgently consulting on bringing the next price cap forward to February 2022, instead of 1 April 2022. Meanwhile, average UK temperatures are much colder in February so it’s likely more people will feel the negative impact on their wallet if this happens.
UK Government must do more
We urgently need more funding from UK Government to support people in fuel poverty, not money moved around from one place to another. It looks like the Energy Company Obligation (an obligation placed by the Government on to the energy companies to provide funding to qualifying households for energy efficiency measures) and other levies on bills could be in the firing line.
Back in 2013, the energy suppliers used rising fuel costs to cut back the energy company obligation. This policy provides free energy saving measures to low-income households, it’s exactly the sort of policy we should be expanding to help those that are hardest hit. The recent comments from Centrica boss Chris O’Shea calling for these to be moved to taxation are typical. Why would an energy supplier want to install measures that mean you buy less energy from them?
These policies are progressive and more cost-effective than a taxpayer-funded scheme (according to the Hills Review) and protect consumers from future price rises.
CSE supports NEA’s call on the UK Government and energy regulator Ofgem to respond to the crisis and support vulnerable energy customers this winter. See the NEA’s latest policy briefing here.
Some groups have suggested that the UK Government should consider removing VAT or policy costs from energy bills. National Energy Action firmly believes that the Government should take a targeted approach, softening the bill shock for the most vulnerable households before April to avoid a full-blown energy affordability crisis.
What can consumers do?
CSE’s advice at the moment is to stick to your current supplier on a variable tariff. We’ve heard some people claiming switching supplier may work out cheaper now but while this advice considers price rises in October 2021 and those coming in April 2022 in line with current policy, this policy is subject to change. For the vast majority of people staying put is best at this time.
Insulating homes has never been more important. We need to insulate our buildings well so they become more energy-efficient and there’s a range of measures available for different budgets. Not only will it make a home warmer and save money on energy bills, it’s also good for the planet.
We’ve got lots of advice for saving energy at home on our website too.
Warm homes are vital for all
Keeping healthily warm is a basic human right and it’s wrong that so many people are struggling with cold homes when living in a developed country like the UK. Cold homes cause misery, ill-health and social exclusion.
More people are experiencing financial difficulties and higher energy costs. This means that more people need our advice than ever before. Through our advice line, home visits and one to one support, we support around 15,000 people a year to reduce their bills and make their homes more energy-efficient.
Unless we see more government support quickly, 2022 is going to be a really tough year for many.