Fuel Poverty Action campaigns to protect people from fuel poverty. We challenge rip-off energy companies and unfair policies that leave people to endure cold homes. We take action for warm, well-insulated homes and clean and affordable energy, under the control of people and communities, not private companies.
We also care passionately about climate change, and want to see the UK’s energy system decarbonised as rapidly as possible with a just transition for communities and workers. We see this as an opportunity to actively reduce economic equality in our society and to help preserve life for our own and future generations. Far from making us poorer, the transition away from fossil fuels will bring us more affordable energy, better housing, cleaner air, and will help keep down the cost of food by helping to stabilise the climate.
We’re a group of ordinary people fed up with being robbed by greedy energy companies through spiralling bills, and rip-off prepayment meters. Alongside pensioners groups, disabled campaigners, tenants’ organisations and others on the frontline of fuel poverty, we’re using protest and direct action to fight for real solutions to the cold homes crisis, and to ensure the UK meets its climate obligations.
At Fuel Poverty Action we are doing all we can to support people fighting for warmer homes and lower bills. We want to provide a platform for people to get their stories into the public arena to help build pressure for change – contact us if you would like to join our new Speakers Bureau.
We know that bringing down the bills goes hand in hand with fighting climate change, which is already causing flooding and extreme weather in the UK and across the world. We seek alternatives to expensive and polluting forms of energy like oil and gas that will bring down the bills for good. We want warm, insulated homes and cleaner and cheaper renewable energy, generated from the sun, the wind, and the waves.
We believe in people power and we are fighting for an energy system that is run for and by the people. We think that together, we can win this. Agree? Then get involved.
The Big Six energy companies and the government are ripping us off, leaving millions throughout the UK facing an impossible choice between heating and eating every winter.
The UK is suffering the worst levels of fuel poverty in Western Europe, with one person dying of cold every six minutes in England and Wales during the winter of 2012/13. We’re all affected by this injustice, particularly those living the most precarious lives, including pensioners, young children, disabled people, the sick and ill, students and others on low incomes.
But as we freeze in our homes, the government are cutting the benefits and services we all rely on, while the profits of the Big Six energy companies – British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE – have soared to record highs. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s a robbery.
Fuel bills are soaring out of control because of the rocketing cost of fossil fuel energy, particularly gas — and because of spiralling energy company profits.
The solutions are out there. Insulation and home energy efficiency would keep our homes warm, while clean energy, generated from the wind, the sun and the waves would bring our bills down. These solutions would also protect our environment and help tackle climate change, which is already causing flooding and extreme weather in the UK and across the world.
But the Big Six bullies have bought off our politicians to block these solutions, placing their staff to work inside government departments and pushing the government into cutting support for insulation and clean energy. Expensive, polluting fossil fuels and cold, leaky homes are what works best for the Big Six’s dirty business plans, never mind the deadly human cost.
We refuse to freeze in our homes any longer. Fuel Poverty Action are going after thieving energy companies and politicians to assert our rights to warm homes and clean, affordable energy, controlled by people and communities, not greedy companies.
To find out more about climate change and fuel poverty, read our pink pamphlet, Climate Justice — at home.
Climate change, which is caused by the polluting impact of burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – is already happening. Its impacts are being felt in the UK and even more severely in some of the poorest countries in the world. Things are getting incredibly serious and if we don’t take action, matters will get catastrophically worse.
But we can fight climate change and fuel poverty at the same time. Both have common root causes and both share the same solutions.
The crucial link to fuel poverty is that as well as polluting our environment, fossil fuels are also increasing in cost. Do not believe the lie spread by the media and the energy companies that the costs of renewable energy are the reason why bills are rising. The main reason why energy bills are rising is the increased cost of fossil fuels.
The dash for gas
In the UK, we generate a lot of our energy from gas, which is becoming more and more expensive. The rising cost of gas accounted for around 60 per cent of the £360 increase in the average energy bill over the past decade. The government’s own research suggests that gas prices will continue to rise.
At the same time, gas spells disaster for the climate. The Chair of the government’s own Committee on Climate Change wrote to George Osborne to say that increasing our dependence on gas would be illegal because of existing climate change legislation.
Despite the impact of gas on our energy bills and environment, the government, under the sway of hard lobbying by the Big Six energy companies, continue with a ‘dash for gas’ which will see a new round of up to forty gas power stations built.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of the UK’s land is being made available for ‘fracking’, a controversial new way of extracting gas from underground, which involves pumping toxic chemicals into holes drilled deep in the ground. Fracking is being imposed on communities across the UK, despite mounting evidence that it contaminates water supplies, pollutes our air and threatens local public health. Even the former chief of fracking company Cuadrilla, admitted that fracking will not bring down our energy bills.
The dash for gas is senseless. Renewables are cheaper and cleaner. While the cost of gas is going up, the cost of renewable energy generated from sun, wind and tide is going down. The most recent government research showed that investing in renewables over gas would save the average household hundreds of pounds on their average fuel bills: while the dash for gas could add up to £600 to the average annual bill by 2050, an alternative scenario based on renewable energy would see bills rise by just £100 by 2020 and then start to fall in 2030.
Renewable energy – not gas – is what the public want: while almost eight in ten people in the UK support clean energy, just four per cent oppose it, with only 35% of people supporting nuclear and 16% fracking. Why, then, is the dash for gas going ahead? The answer: the Big Six energy companies are lobbying hard in its favour because more dirty and expensive fossil fuel energy makes sense for their profits. That’s why the Big Six have to go – they will always prioritise their profits over our rights.
If we want warm homes, lower bills and clean, affordable energy, we need to take energy out of private hands. Across the world, from Hamburg, Germany to Boulder, Colorado, towns and cities are buying back their energy grids from private companies and establishing local public companies, which pledge to lower prices and shift to renewable energy. Throughout the UK, communities are leaving behind the Big Six to set up local wind and solar co-operatives. These forms of community and public ownership can bring down the bills, tackle climate change and deliver real power to the people.
Another important link to make between fuel poverty and climate change is that both are exacerbated by the UK’s poorly insulated and energy-inefficient housing. The UK has the oldest housing stock in Europe. A home built in 1960 loses three times more heat than one built today. That explains why Sweden, which has invested in energy efficiency and home insulation, experience fuel poverty less severely, despite being far colder. Our draughty homes are wasting our money and our energy.
It is a disgrace that the government has cut all existing grants available to help fund insulation and energy efficiency. These grants – which, although not enough, did provide vital help for some – have been replaced by a market-based scheme called the Green Deal which sees loans offered at rip-off interest rates, ensuring that those who need help the most will be unable to afford it.
We need generous public investment in energy efficiency and insulation to keep our homes warm and our environment safe. Given that energy company profits are five times higher now than four years ago, don’t tell us that there isn’t the money for this.
The UK has the oldest housing stock in Europe. A home built in 1960 loses three times more heat than one built today. That explains why Sweden, which has invested in energy efficiency and home insulation, experience fuel poverty less severely, despite being far colder. Our draughty homes are wasting our money and our energy. We need generous public investment in energy efficiency and insulation to keep our homes warm. Given that energy company profits are five times higher now than four years ago, don’t tell us that there isn’t the money for this.
2) CLEAN ENERGY
The main factor behind rising energy bills is the rising cost of polluting forms of energy like gas and oil. The rising cost of gas accounted for around 60 per cent of the £360 increase in the average energy bill over the past decade. The only way to bring bills down for good is a rapid shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy, generated from the sun, the wind and the waves. The price of renewable technology is quickly falling and once the upfront investment has been made, costs are minimal.
3) PUBLIC AND COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP
The Big Six energy companies are lobbying against cheap, clean energy because more dirty and expensive fossil fuel energy is better for their profits. That’s why the Big Six have to go – they will always prioritise their profits over our rights. If we want warm homes, lower bills and clean, affordable energy, we need to take energy out of private hands. Across the world, from Hamburg, Germany to Boulder, Colorado, towns and cities are buying back their energy grids from private companies and establishing local public companies, which pledge to lower prices and shift to renewable energy. Throughout the UK, communities are leaving behind the Big Six to set up local wind and solar co-operatives. These forms of community and public ownership can bring down the bills, tackle climate change and deliver real power to the people.
4) BOOST INCOMES
A key reason for rising levels of fuel poverty is that people have simply got less money in their pockets. Real wages are declining and benefits are being slashed, leaving millions of us facing fatal ‘heat or eat’ choices. Meanwhile, Big Six profits continue to rise, year on year, amid allegations of tax avoidance and market manipulation. Austerity cuts and poverty wages are not necessary, they’re a result of political choices to prioritise the rich and powerful above the rest of us. The money’s there for measures like a statutory living wage and more generous benefits, which would tackle inequalities and help us heat our homes.
5) FAIR PRICING
Under the current pricing system, the more energy you use, the cheaper it gets. This means that those with the lowest incomes pay the most for their energy, because they use the least, while the luxury consumption of the rich is subsidised by the rest of us. A fair pricing system would reverse this, making the first units of energy used cheap or even free, with prices increasing as usage increases. This would decrease the costs of meeting basic energy needs of heating, lighting and cooking, recognising that these needs should be regarded as universal rights.
6) ENDING METER INJUSTICE
Energy companies get around their obligation not to disconnect ‘vulnerable’ customers by forcing people onto prepayment meters, which mean that when you can’t afford to pay, you have to disconnect yourself. This leaves people on prepayment meters as regularly without energy access, while meter customers pay an average of £80 a year more than those who can afford to pay by direct debit. What’s worse, it is common practice for energy companies to break into people’s homes to install meters against their will. Fuel poverty will persist unless the injustice of prepayment meters is tackled. This does not mean abolishing prepayment meters, as some people find it helpful to pay this way. However, forced meter installation should be illegalised, with meters only being installed upon request. Further, meter customers must be charged the same as those paying by direct debit and the ‘standing charge’ paid by meter customers should be dropped.