Heating up the energy debate

ENERGY BILLS: In the national debate it is local councils taking action to help people cut them.
ENERGY BILLS: In the national debate it is local councils taking action to help people cut them.

WHILE Westminster is leading the national debate on the rising costs of energy bills it is local councils who are coming together and using ‘people power’ to cut them.

Here in Oldham we are now becoming a collective switching ‘veteran’ after a successful campaign this time last year saw more than 8,700 people signing up for cheaper energy.

The average saving made was £171 per resident, which isn’t to be dismissed and put much-needed cash back into people’s pockets.

The scheme proved such a success that a second auction was then subsequently held across Greater Manchester with other UK councils.

Now that this scheme has history and credibility local people trust it.

It wasn’t easy to get it off the ground and we had more than our fair share of hoops to jump through, but you can find out more about the next switching campaign at http://www.energyhelpline.com/betterenergydeals

We do, however, need government intervention if we stand any chance of limiting future bill increases. It feels far too often that the energy companies are playing a game and simply running rings around politicians who are struggling to get to the truth that lies behind these price hikes.

The recent decision by the Prime Minister to scrap the so-called ‘green tax’ to save households £50 a year is short-sighted in my view and it has let the big energy companies off the hook.

Calling it a green tax means many people just see another £50 back in their pockets without challenging back.

Let’s not forget here that the increase in profit made by energy companies was on average £23 per customer. This means each and every one of us now contributes £105 a year to their shareholders whilst at the same time giving them a new ‘get out of jail’ card to reduce the overall cost of energy to households.

There are two significant causes of high energy costs.

The first is high usage by individuals: mainly through living in inefficient homes which lack adequate insulation.

The second is the increasing cost of ‘wholesale’ energy on the international markets.

The  ‘green tax’ was actually designed to address those very two issues.

It has seen hundreds of thousands of homes across the UK benefiting from energy saving measures to make homes more efficient. Without these funds in place the additional cost to households is huge and we simply won’t be making the impact on fuel poverty that we clearly need to.

Without wanting to be a prophet of doom and gloom it also has to be a self-evident truth that the more people who are in fuel poverty, the higher the risks are that more vulnerable people will die of cold related illnesses. All that means is that the government pays the bill anyway, but it is normal people who are paying the ultimate price.

The increasing cost of wholesale energy was intended to be addressed by having a greater mix of energy generation rather than relying on oil, coal and gas. Without the infrastructure funding in place do we really expect energy companies will ever see the light?

It is a primary purpose of governments to provide for the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens. Energy security and a stable energy supply are also essential for any growing country. Allowing profit to come ahead of that is a failure.

If you try and make sense of the current pricing system the energy companies just respond by saying: “It’s complicated”.

You know when a relationship has gone so wrong that one partner just doesn’t want to have the conversation? Maybe it’s time for a fresh start…

Thanks for listening,

Jim

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