Press release for immediate release
As the nights draw in and frost will soon be appearing, Birmingham Friends of the Earth are calling for more protection from rocketing fuel bills caused by hikes in gas and electricity prices.
A hike of between 11 and 18 per cent for electricity and gas means the average household fuel bill now stands at £1,300 a year.
And reports say that the ‘big six’ energy companies – British Gas, EDF, Npower, E.ON, Scottish Power, and Scottish & Southern – are making around £125 profit per customer, compared to £15 a few months ago.
An increase of more than 700 per cent must be particularly galling to many people in the region who are facing job losses, pay freezes and other economic worries.
A staggering 20% of Birmingham’s residents are now in fuel poverty and organisations offering advice are being inundated with people concerned about financial ruin because they cannot pay their fuel bills.
“Low incomes, rising fuel bills and energy-inefficient homes affect the majority of our clients,’ says Yvonne Davies, Chief Executive of Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau. ‘Those with little or no disposable income have no choice but to ration fuel, which has serious implications for their health and wellbeing. Government schemes such as the Green Deal and RHI help, but without wider market reform and simplified, easy-to-compare tariffs, local people will continue to unfairly overpay for energy.”
Energy regulator Ofgem, which highlighted the figures in a report earlier this month, has said that the big six should be operating more competitively to bring prices down.
It also wants more clarity and a streamlining of the 400 or so different price tariffs available.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigner Robert Pass says the increases cannot be justified:
“It’s a national scandal that the big six energy companies are making billions in profits while hundreds of people die each winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes,” he says.
“We need urgent action to break the stranglehold of these companies and wean us off dirty, expensive fossil fuels.”
The government’s recent announcement of plans to slash incentives for local, renewable energy schemes also feed in to the problem by making cheap, green energy alternatives less viable. “We are also concerned that recent changes to the feed-in-tariff will cause active domestic renewables and insulation initiatives to fail, depriving many of the opportunity to have warmer homes and cheap, renewable energy,” says Davies.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) has launched the Final Demand campaign, calling on the government to make the big six invest in affordable, renewable energy sources rather than continuing with oil and gas supplies and demanding an urgent public enquiry into the power and influence of the six companies that supply 99% of households in the UK and stifle competition from smaller, greener competitors.
The campaign is also calling on the government to rethink its decision to axe the feed-in-tariff support for clean, local energy schemes.
“The Final Demand campaign correctly identifies that the catalysts behind fuel poverty must be tackled in a coordinated way, and we support their calls for affordable energy for all,” says Davies.
Notes to editor
1. Ofgem is the independent watchdog for the energy market. For more details on their report mentioned above see http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Pages/MoreInformation.aspx?file=RMR%20Oct.pdf&refer=Media/PressRel
2. The feed-in tariff [FIT] scheme pays households, businesses, councils, hospitals and schools to create clean power through systems like solar panels. It has been hugely successful to date, with the creation of 80,000 new solar installations and 22,000 new jobs over the last two years. http://www.decc.gov.uk/publications/basket.aspx?filetype=4&filepath=Statistics%2fsource%2felectricity%2f1798-fits-capacity-monthly-update.xls#basket
3. Friends of the Earth research shows that a green energy revolution is needed to stabilise energy bills in the long run. For information see: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/emr_12072011.html
4. Earlier this month Friends of the Earth launched its new campaign, Final Demand, calling for a public inquiry into the Big Six energy companies and a fair energy system. The giant energy companies are making huge profits by keeping us hooked on expensive fossil fuels. The campaign is asking people to sign its petition to David Cameron at www.foe.co.uk/finaldemand