Studying from home: Students face higher bills and energy rationing

Ethan Nichols takes a detailed look at the unspoken problem faced by students forced to study from home

Ethan Nichols
11th March 2021
Image Credit: Philippe Jausions on Unsplash
With the UK-wide impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching its 1 year ‘anniversary,’ in the least romantic sense of the word, it’s safe to say that almost everyone has felt the effects of a new at-home lifestyle. With the main health concerns surrounding isolation and loneliness, the issues of increasing utility bills and the associated health problems as a result are often overlooked.

The initially comical sight of students attending online lectures in a blanket or dressing gown reflects a more concerning problem

Spending an increased amount of time at home, the winter month’s cold weather and short sunlight hours may have been the moment a lot of us saw a noticeable surge in our household bills. I have definitely noticed an increase in students opting to attend their online lectures wrapped in a blanket or dressing gown.

However, this initially comical outfit choice reflects a deeper and more concerning problem. Energy rationing. Energy rationing is the term used to describe when someone is forced to decide on certain times throughout the day that energy, such as electricity for heating and lighting can be afforded. Though this act of scarcely using energy may have been a part of many students' lives before the pandemic, it has become severely heightened and a much more common problem following the widespread closure of on-campus lectures and a shift to in-bedroom learning.

The Energy Helpline published data suggesting that those of us spending five days of the working week at home can expect to see a near 20% rise in bill prices.

Source: Energy Helpline

And though there are government-funded opportunities for households to claim back expenses associated with at-home work costs, this is not afforded to the student population who primarily occupy rented properties.

Spending large portions of each day cold and sedentary can damage our physical and mental health significantly

No student should have to face the decision of having to choose if and when they can afford to turn the heating on. This not only causes potential social conflicts with many multi-tenant occupancies, where each person can have differing lifestyle and timetable demands, but it poses health risks too.

Spending large portions of each day cold and sedentary can damage our physical and mental health significantly. Therefore, Newcastle University does provide widespread help and support, with hardship funds providing a great opportunity to relieve economic stress from many students' day-to-day lives.

This nation-wide issue further highlights the importance in the development and retrofitting of existing accommodation with new renewable electricity generation. This would also go some way to illustrate that Universities really are taking their climate pledges seriously, whilst also providing a secure supply of electricity for their future students.

So, as teaching approaches a full year online, and students continue to spend each day stuck in these often drafty and dark properties, it is no surprise that so many of us are eagerly awaiting the longer days and warmer temperatures that spring and summer bring.

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