Is there any way to bring down our fuel bills?

Labour wants to freeze prices. The Government says it will cut green taxes. So do the experts have any better ideas about how to solve the problem that’s divided Westminster? Tom Bawden finds out

‘Scrap HS2 and spend the money on insulating homes’

Andrew Cooper, the Green Party’s Energy spokesman

“The Government should scrap the HS2 high-speed train that is due to cost between £50bn and £80bn… and use that money to fund a mass energy efficiency programme. The surest way of reducing energy bills is by making homes more energy-efficient and the HS2 money, which is funded by taxes, could be spent making sure millions of people have properly insulated lofts and walls, creating worthwhile jobs.”

‘Take out a fixed-rate deal and save £120 a year’

Anne Robinson,  director of  consumer policy at uSwitch, the price comparison website

“For consumers trying to keep their bills down, the most important thing is to go for a long-term fixed deal. We’ve had big hikes in bills this year and it wouldn’t surprise me if we had big hikes next year ahead of the election. There are some really long fixed deals available… and most people could save 10 per cent by taking one out.”

‘Remove VAT on energy –  but don’t cut green taxes’

Andrew Horstead, head of commodities research at Utilyx, an energy consultant

“The Government’s hands are quite tied on this, but it could strip out VAT for energy, which is levied at 5 per cent. A windfall tax [as suggested by John Major] could impact on investment and that would be detrimental to the energy supply and we need to hold back from creating more uncertainty. And if you strip back green taxes, the Government is no longer showing support for renewable technology and climate change. This sends out the wrong signals to the investment community.”

‘The tariffs target the low-paid, so change them’

Charlie Spencer, chief executive of Spencer Group, an engineering firm specialising in renewable energy

“Currently, energy tariffs are structured so that the higher rates apply on the first part of energy bills. Therefore the tariff structure penalises those who use least. Often these are unemployed or those on low wages. For example, I live in a five-bedroom house in the Hull area and pay for my electricity on a single tariff of 11p per kilowatt hour (KWh). Elsewhere in Hull, people on low incomes will be paying 20p for most, if not all, of their electricity. That cannot be right… So set a maximum tariff for the first part of  energy bills.”

‘Take the cost of government schemes off energy bills’

A spokesman for Scottish and Southern Energy

“The most effective way to reduce energy bills is to take the cost of government environmental and social schemes off bills and pay for them through general taxation. This would reduce bills by £110 immediately and shift the burden of paying for these schemes away from those who can least afford it, on to those who can.”

‘The energy suppliers control enough of the bill to cut prices’

Will Straw, associate director of IPPR, the left-leaning think-tank

“The energy providers only have control of about 15 per cent of the energy bill in the form of profits and operating costs but that still leaves plenty of scope to cut prices… In a truly competitive market there would be downward pressure on operating costs and profits and it looks like the big six are sitting on their laurels and not driving down operating costs because they don’t need to – although it’s hard to tell for sure because there is very little transparency in the way costs and profits are allocated between these businesses.”

‘We are not attracted to Miliband and Major’s ideas’

Angus McCrone, energy expert, Bloomberg New Energy Finance

“We need to have a diversified energy strategy – some shale gas, a bit of nuclear, as well as renewables. Where possible you should go for the low-cost option, for example with wind, instead of expensive offshore wind we could import onshore wind from Ireland… which is likely to be cheaper. The big six have to continue investing at a high rate and so they do need a decent level of profit. We are not attracted to Ed Miliband and John Major’s ideas at this point.”

‘Cameron’s idea of rolling back green levies is stupid’

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace UK

“The Government is increasing bills by being so draconian about trying to bring them down. David Cameron’s idea of rolling back green levies is as close to stupidity as it is possible to get because the uncertainty it creates in the mind of investors will put up the cost of capital. In the short term, the best way to bring down prices is to scrap the… tax on carbon emissions that has put up people’s bills by about 2 per cent this year.”

‘We can’t privatise and say we don’t want firms to make money’

Dr Robert Gross, director of the Centre for Energy and technology at Imperial College London

“There is no silver bullet to get bills down in the short term as it is not in the gift of politicians to control gas prices. We’re a small island … at the mercy of the vagaries of the global supply picture for fossil fuels. In 15 to 20 years’ time we might be able to make renewable and nuclear energy sufficiently cheap but we are not in that position yet. You could cut support for renewables, but then people would stop investing in the things that in the long-term should insulate consumers from damaging swings in prices. We can’t have our cake and eat it. We can’t privatise the energy providers and say that we want you to work with the benefits of competition and to invest and at the same time say we don’t want you to make any money.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones