An alliance of 25 major charities have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, calling for urgent action to tackle the energy bill crisis, including boosting insulation funding.
The charities - which include Save the Children, Age-UK, End Fuel Poverty Coalition, WWF, Green Alliance, Faith for the Climate, Tearfund and Greenpeace - are calling for emergency funding to support the most vulnerable and for insulation and clean energy funding to be increased to help wean the UK off expensive gas.
Without urgent government action, the charities claim that the energy price cap could be increased by £600 in April, driven by the surging price of gas on the international markets, taking an average energy bill to around £2000.
The charities estimate that fuel poverty could increase by 50 per cent, from four to six million households across the UK. There are fears this will lead to households choosing between heating and eating, an increase in the number of people dying in cold homes and a greater burden on the NHS, when it is already under great strain.
The charities remind the Prime Minister that a cut in support for making homes energy efficient after the last surge in energy bills in 2013 left households far more vulnerable to surging gas prices.
As a result of the Energy Company Obligation levy being cut in half and the Warm Front programme for the fuel poor being abolished, millions of British homes have not been insulated.
The charities claim that the cuts led to a 90 per cent cut in loft and cavity wall insulation measures and half of those in the insulation industry lost their jobs. The charities warn that insulation rates have still not recovered and the same mistake must not be made today.
Juliet Phillips of the climate change think tank E3G says: “The Energy Company Obligation is the biggest programme the government has to insulate the homes of the fuel poor. Any damage to this levy would make these households more dependent upon gas, entrenching the crisis further.”
Improving the efficiency of the worst performing UK homes could provide bill savings of over £500 every year per household upgraded, the organisations say.
The charities are also calling for emergency support for the most vulnerable, funded in part by a windfall tax on the fossil fuel industry, who are due to make profits up to ten times higher this financial year due to the surge in wholesale prices.
They are recommending expanding the Warm Homes Discount to ensure the majority of the expected rise in energy bills is covered for the most vulnerable households, for example those on universal credit and providing a one-off payment to those eligible for Cold Weather Payments.
The charities are also joining calls for legacy costs for renewables to be moved off power bills, to be paid for by the Exchequer instead, whilst leaving the Energy Company Obligation on the energy bill as a critical levy to help the fuel poor. They calculate that this would save households an additional £100 a year.
The charities also call on the Government to ramp up the heat pump grant programme due to launch in April with 10 times more funding, boosting it from £400m to a £4 billion programme, to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel boilers.
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