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

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
people

Former boxer recalls incident when he was seven years old

Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

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

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

    Finance Assistant - Part time - 9 month FTC

    £20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...

    Marketing Manager

    £40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

    Market Risk Manager - Investment Banking - Mandarin Speaker

    £45,000 - £65,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is a well-known APAC Corporate and...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes