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."

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
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

    PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

    £350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

    Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

    Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

    Test Lead - London - Investment Banking

    £475 - £525 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Investment Banking, Technical ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game