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

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
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