End energy profiteering: The rich get richer, the poor get colder

Big Six suppliers heading for bumper profits and bonuses as more than 5.5 million UK homes hit by fuel poverty

More than 5.5 million households are suffering under fuel poverty, many being forced to choose between heating or eating.

Click HERE to view 'Fair energy? rising profits, rising poverty' graphic

Meanwhile the Big Six energy suppliers increased their profit margins by 733 per cent in just three months last year. Enough is enough. Today The Independent supports a campaign to force energy companies to share their profits with the needy. The aim is simple: to make essential home energy affordable to all.

An estimated 3,000 winter deaths are caused every year by fuel poverty and as the winter chill really begins to hit home, with more snow and icy weather forecast for the next few days, it could be the worst time for the vulnerable, particularly the elderly.

Research by Age UK last month found that two million elderly people are so cold that they go to bed when they're not tired in an attempt to keep energy bills down. More than two-fifths of people surveyed admitted to turning their heating down even when cold.

Average household bills have doubled in the past six years from around £600 a year in 2006 to more than £1,200 a year now. The increases have more people than ever slipping into fuel poverty – when their gas and electricity costs account for at least a tenth of their income. According to research from uSwitch, £1,500 a year on energy is the tipping point at which three-quarters of households will start rationing their energy, three-fifths will go without adequate heating and more than a third will be forced to turn their heating off entirely.

That figure looks like edging ever closer as further energy increases seem highly likely, especially after wholesale gas prices reached a six-year high earlier this week. Meanwhile, in October the regulator Ofgem revealed that energy suppliers had increased their profit margins by a whopping 733 per cent, from £15 to £125 per household.

The campaign – End The Big Six Energy Fix – is being co-ordinated by pressure group Compass and has already attracted cross-party support from politicians as well as economists, civil society leaders, charities, religious leaders, celebrities and campaigners. The 100 leading figures are today urging the Government to tackle the predatory behaviour of big energy companies by introducing a new levy on their profits.

They set out their three demands in a letter published in today's Independent signed by a range of figures – including the Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, the former Home Secretary David Blunkett and the Tory parliamentary private secretary Mark Lancaster.

The main aim is to introduce a windfall tax on energy companies' profits and to use the money raised to make homes energy efficient, which would also reduce fuel poverty. The funds raised should be ring-fenced to help people with their energy costs, particularly those living in fuel poverty.

The campaign is launched ahead of the profit announcements of the big energy companies later this month. In the first six months of 2011 alone the Big Six energy companies posted profits of around £3.5bn.

Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, said: "It is completely outrageous that the Big Six are able to rake in eye-watering profits as people up and down the country are forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families.

"These companies are delivering a crucial public service, and it is now the Government's responsibility to hold them to account for failing to provide anything close to a fair deal for consumers. We need to see Ofgem taking a far stronger role in regulating this out-of-control industry."

Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: "It's scandalous that the major energy firms are netting billions of pounds in profit while more than five million households in Britain struggle to heat their homes."

Gavin Hayes, general secretary of Compass, said: "If the Government can impose a levy on the big oil companies, then why not impose a similar levy on big energy companies?"

Campaigners are encouraging people to sign a new petition at www.endthebigsixenergyfix.org.uk. They hope that public support will pile pressure on the Chancellor to announce plans for a levy in March's Budget.

From today the campaign will be targeting millions of people across Britain through Twitter and Facebook.

Case study: 'It's a case of sitting back and hoping the bills aren't too high'

Owen Ellis, 77, finds paying for heating his home a real struggle, especially since the Coalition Government cut back the annual winter fuel payment this year by £50

"My monthly income is about £400 so I can't afford to keep the heating on all the time," said the former local council worker, who has been living alone in east London since his wife died three years ago.

"But I'm one of the lucky ones as the flat I rent is new and well insulated, so if I blast the heating for a couple of hours, it keeps the flat warm for a few hours longer."

He sticks £7 away every fortnight to pay for his quarterly heating bills. "It's a case of sitting back and hoping the bills aren't too high when they come in," he said.

"The Government's attitude simply seems to be that if they take the money away from the elderly and people die, it will be less of a financial burden on them."

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Sport
Torquay United mascot Gilbert the Gull
football
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

    £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

    Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

    £50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker