Urgent action is required to prevent avoidable deaths as millions more face fuel poverty this winter
It is a matter of great concern that against the background of rising inflation, the end of furlough and cut to Universal Credit that the price cap might end in April 2022.
We are living in unprecedented times in terms of a record increase in wholesale gas prices. Not only will this increase put huge pressure on the business and manufacturing industry, but it will also impact households dramatically. As we approach winter, those living in rural areas and the north of England and Scotland will be more severely affected given the lower temperatures at this time of year.
Given the fact that more people are still working from home, their energy consumption will be higher. The elderly, who tend to be less mobile and more dependent on energy, will be amongst the hardest hit.
The increase in wholesale prices also affects heating oil, LPG and coal, widely used in rural areas but not covered by the price cap.
A more sustainable solution has to be found to ensure affordable heating and efficient energy provision for all
The National Energy Action (NEA), of which I have the honour to be President, advise on helping keep homes warm. It is a matter of great concern that against the background of rising inflation, the end of furlough and cut to Universal Credit that the price cap might end in April 2022. At that point, it is expected that electricity prices will face a big increase to reflect the record leap in wholesale gas prices. The NEA views with alarm that such a scenario will push an additional one and a half million households into fuel poverty, making a total of five and a half million.
It is a fact that those on the lowest income tend to live in the least efficient homes and that generally, homes in Britain generally lose heat quicker than anywhere else in Europe owing to poor insulation.
What can the government do to address this? They should immediately lift the green levy on each household’s electricity bill, amounting to 25 per cent of the total. The shortfall should be made up by businesses funding the cost of the green infrastructure in the market in the usual way, as is the case in the water and other sectors. The uplift to Universal Credit should remain in place given the increase in inflation as well as energy prices.
It cannot be right that businesses may potentially profit from operating this infrastructure, while those on lowest incomes, living in coldest and least efficient homes may be pushed further into fuel poverty.
In the Budget, I urge the government to increase funding for the Warm Home Discount Scheme to ensure that everyone can live in a warm, safe home this winter without having to choose whether to eat or heat their home.
In the short term, urgent action is required to prevent avoidable deaths this winter, while in the longer term, a more sustainable solution has to be found to ensure affordable heating and efficient energy provision for all.
Baroness McIntosh is a Conservative peer.
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