It is estimated that more than five million people in the UK are facing fuel poverty. Average annual household bills for gas and electricity exceed £1,200, and uSwitch has predicted that by 2020 this could rise to £3,202. Yet energy companies' profit margins go up and up. Ofgem warned last October that profits on dual fuel deals had risen from £15 per household to £125 – a rise of 733 per cent.
Something is going very wrong and it's time we did something about it. That's why today more than 100 public figures have launched a new cross-party campaign called End the Big Six Energy Fix.
We are proposing three simple and sensible solutions.
First, we are calling on the Government to impose a similar levy to the one it has imposed on North Sea oil companies and the big banks. Over time, such a levy could raise billions, revenues that could be ring-fenced and used to ensure that every home is insulated and highly energy-efficient – starting with the homes of the fuel-poor. This would form part of a Green New Deal and would help to create thousands of new skilled jobs.
Second, to prevent energy companies from passing the cost of any levy on to customers, we want the Government to give Ofgem the power to cap prices. This could be linked to the wholesale price to make energy prices fairer. Third, we want the Government to launch a public inquiry into the Big Six energy companies. The industry has a huge problem in terms of trust, and it is in the interests of energy suppliers themselves that these issues be addressed. We then need to devise appropriate reforms that ensure we have a market and an industry that serve people and planet before profit.
Energy provision should be viewed not merely as a market commodity, but as a crucial public service on which we all rely.
Caroline Lucas is the leader of the Green Party and one of the key figures behind the Compass campaign