Article published: Thursday, January 26th 2012
Fuel Poverty Action are planning a weekend of action this weekend to highlight growing concern around fuel poverty in the UK, and are being supported locally by Manchester Climate Action and nationally by the Coalition of Resistance.
Households in the UK are classed as being in fuel poverty when more than 10 per cent of their income is spent keeping warm. According to a YouGov poll nearly one in four people live in fuel poverty, which is mainly determined by the cost of energy, the energy efficiency of the house and household income.
Last year the Big Six energy companies, who provide the gas and electricity to the majority of UK houses, raised their standard tariffs between 18 and 22.6 per cent. Annual energy bills have hit record highs, averaging at £1,345. Between 2010 and 2011, there were 25,700 ‘excess winter deaths’, and according to the government-commissioned Hills Poverty Review 2,700 were directly due to those people being ‘Fuel Poor’.
Campaigners claim this is a conservative estimate, and groups such as 38 Degrees and Friends of the Earth have come out against price increases. Campaigning petitioners 38 Degrees already have more than 85,000 signatures to their e-petition calling the Big Six to “give your customers a fair deal – cut your prices and don’t cream off huge profits”.
In response to widespread criticism to their role in the spread of fuel poverty some companies are agreeing to 4 per cent or 5 per cent cuts in tariffs, with most to come into effect after the winter period. However, with the price of wholesale gas dropping a further 9 per cent in November, and record profits reported to be up to 700 per cent for members of the Big Six, this move has done little to stifle criticism.
Groups such as Fuel Poverty Action however want to take things a step further than just lobbying for price decreases: “We want to work towards replacing fossil fuels and corporate-dominance over energy with an energy system based on the democratic control of renewable energy.”
Manchester Climate Action say they agree with the need to take further action.
“We’ll be joining in the winter warm up weekend on 27-30 January and we encourage others to take action and look at local alternatives to corporate and unsustainable energy,” said a spokesperson for MCA.