Why have household energy bills risen by more than 9 per cent in the past year, while wholesale prices rose only 1.7 per cent – equivalent to just £10? How do the “Big Six” energy companies justify doubling their net profit margins during that time from £45 a home to £95? Do they predict that there will be fewer excess winter deaths this year than there were last winter, the same (24,000), or more?
If any of our energy bosses has been itching to explain to an angry public just why profits are rocketing as so many people feel a pinch on their living standards, it’s their lucky day. Six executives must this afternoon give evidence to Parliament on why they think that £3.74bn collective profit (up 73 per cent in three years) is “not particularly big”. Perhaps the Energy Committee can arrange afterwards for the six men to visit people living in extreme fuel poverty.
The comparison figures (disputed by the Big Six) come from Ofgem, the regulator that has failed to take decisive action despite knowing that wholesale prices have not been rising at the same rate as bills. Coincidentally, Ofgem leads the i readers’ shortlist for Britain’s most supine watchdog. Polling by i (page 4) suggests that 80 per cent of people support Ed Miliband’s plan to freeze energy costs, though half do not believe he will deliver on the pledge if he wins the 2015 election. MPs on the Energy Committee must represent that 80 per cent today.
On a cheerier note, today we carry the tale of the Free Help Guy (pages 30-31), a young man who, finding himself with spare time, set about helping strangers who got in touch online. He has tracked relatives, reunited people with lost property and helped the terminally ill to fulfil dreams. Few know who he is – and it doesn’t matter. His generosity affirms faith in humanity and the micro-altruism that lends life meaning.