Leading article: Time to end the Big Six's energy fix

Share
Related Topics

During Labour's long economic boom, few in government gave much thought to energy policy. So long as the bills came down – which for years they did because of North Sea gas and the privatised suppliers trimming workforces – politicians were content to allow greater consolidation of the industry. They gave little thought to the future. That complacency must end now.

More than 5.5 million households are now in fuel poverty – spending 10 per cent or more of their income on heating. With bills set to rise for the rest of this decade, as suppliers replace worn-out plants and invest in renewable energy, action is needed to ensure that households escape the desperation of choosing whether to eat or stay warm. Excess profit must be squeezed out of the system.

Figures from Ofgem show that the margins of the biggest six energy firms have risen sharply since 2006 – though the regulator expects them to fall in coming months after January's modest price cuts. In a market characterised by scant competition, the Big Six have failed time and again to perform or reform; refusing to make bills more easily understood; failing to cut prices quickly when wholesale costs have fallen; failing to instal smart meters which reduce billing queries and increase energy efficiency.

The campaign – End the Big Six Energy Fix – calling for a windfall levy on energy profits, with the proceeds going to help alleviate the plight of the fuel poor, has the dual merit of being achievable and just.

Windfall taxes on businesses must be the exception rather than the rule; companies must be able to plan for their tax liabilities and not be penalised for success. But energy companies are currently being rewarded for failure. Tony Blair imposed a windfall tax on privatised public utilities, and Gordon Brown levied one on bankers' bonuses. The Coalition should back the campaign and act against these slothful, failing monoliths of a market economy which otherwise serves us well.

In this hard winter, with the chill of an economic downturn still biting, these firms will receive little sympathy from voters.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?