Winter is coming — is the government ready to face the cold truth amidst rising energy bills?

Our writer questions whether the government is prepared to help the British people for the coming winter.

Anirban Debnath
6th December 2022
As winter creeps closer, so does the rising concern over energy bills. The cost-of-living crisis coupled with the energy crisis paints a bleak picture. It is hard to shake off the feeling that those in power have an ever-increasing disinterest in finding proper solutions to these serious issues.

The energy price guarantee (EPG) is the government’s policy to tackle the steadily growing energy cost. Introduced in October, the energy price guarantee limits the amount the typical household pays for its wholesale energy, capping the average annual bill at £2,500.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced that the cap will stay in place until April next year, when the threshold will be raised to £3,000 and will be continued till March 2024.

The energy regulator Ofgem has said that households will not have to pay this increase. However, it must be kept in mind that the energy price guarantee is a government subsidy, so taxpayers will still be paying the extra cost, albeit indirectly. This means energy companies will still collect bloated profits and middle to lower-income Britons will still have to pay a soaring cost.

SNP MP Alan Brown said, “While the UK Government’s feeble price guarantee may initially shield consumers from the rising energy price cap, the reality is that it will be households that will be forced to pay a heavy price through borrowing to subsidise the guarantee and tax rises.”

Moreover, winter 2023 can get even harsher as the government plans to withdraw the universal £400 worth of support and provide targeted support to those in receipt of means-tested benefits. These families will receive a one-time top-up of £900.

While the smaller amount of support targets poorer families, it is a very imprecise way of providing aid to the households that are in need of it the most.

Four in 10 of the poorest fifth of households are not in receipt of the means-tested benefits and so do not even qualify for the monetary top-up. Analysis by the Resolution Foundation shows that half of the households in the poorest fifth of the income distribution will face energy bills of more than £1,000 in 2023.

On the other hand, the government plans to launch awareness campaigns before Christmas to urge the public to cut back on energy usage and save cash. While this is a welcome decision, the government should also bear in mind the struggles of disabled people who are dependent on equipment, such as ventilators, wheelchairs, and feeding tube pumps. For someone using a ventilator 24/7, “cutting back on energy” is not an option.

So, what can the government do to battle the energy bill crisis? One simple solution is rapid introduction of renewable energy and more investment into the sector. Not only is this environment friendly because of low-carbon emissions but also, it is key to securing low-cost homegrown energy. Secondly, the government should refrain from withdrawing the £400 support next year. The government should also raise more funds from non-domiciled taxpayers and banks to fund more support for those in need.

 Now is high time for the government to rethink its strategies and act. Otherwise, as the winter chills hit, Britain’s least affluent families will have to look forward to energy poverty and freezing homes.

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