Action on energy bills is needed now
Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Voice
THE rise in energy costs is proving devastating for many households.
Bills rose by around £700 on average in April and are expected to rise again in October. This is simply beyond many people’s means.
To date, the Chancellor’s only intervention has been to provide a £200 loan, which will have to be paid back over the next few years. Given that we don’t know what will happen to energy prices over that period – although we do know that some of the triggers for energy costs rising, like the war in Ukraine, will cast long shadows – this isn’t an ideal response.
We thought we might see more from the Chancellor in his recent Spring Budget Statement, but there was nothing new to ease the financial burden households are facing. Nor was there anything in the Energy Strategy released soon after.
We know that the cheapest sources of energy are renewables like solar and wind, and that there are currently 600 renewable projects with planning approval, waiting to get the go ahead. Combined, these would save enough energy to wean the UK off Russian gas imports completely.
We also know that the UK has some of the least energy-efficient housing stock in Europe. Reducing demand for energy by insulating homes would lower bills and reduce pressure on supplies. It should have a been a top priority in the Energy Strategy but there was not a single extra penny in Government funding for it.
In Bristol we will not sit around waiting for this Government to get its act together on energy policy. The council is pushing ahead with ambitious projects to wean ourselves off expensive fossil fuels, like the new low-carbon water source heat pumps in Castle Park, which Shadow Secretary of State for Climate Change Ed Miliband recently visited.
The council has also announced the new City Leap partnership, which will see £424 million invested in low-carbon heat and making social housing more energy efficient. And West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris has announced £3.2m to make homes more energy efficient.
This will all make a real difference to households in Bristol, but we also need action on a national level. That’s why Labour has been calling for a windfall tax on oil and gas profits, which we would use to provide households up to £600 off their energy bills. We would also insulate two million homes within a year, so as to lower energy demand.
This plan offers immediate solutions to the crisis, and in Bristol we are putting these ideas into practice. It's time for the Government to stop delaying and follow suit.