Friday, 9 December 2011

Fuel poverty and the energy lobbyists

Struggling to pay rising energy bills? Wondering why nothing is being done?
Two stories that tell us so much about who really runs thing in UK plc and how badly Wales does from being governed from London.

First is the news that big energy firms who effectively supply all the UK's electricity as well as multinationals such as Shell Oil have "leant" 50 staff to the UK Government.
The revelation came after Freedom of Information requests by Green MP Caroline Lucas:
"Companies such as the big six energy firms do not lend their staff to government for nothing – they expect a certain degree of influence, insider knowledge and preferential treatment in return. At such a pivotal time in the UK's energy and climate change policy, as ministers must get to grips with the realities of climate change, rising costs and energy insecurity, the strong presence of vested interests is a real cause for concern."

These firms also lobbied the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) to make sure they were able to continue charging rip-off prices for fuel:

Decc declared 195 ministerial meetings with energy companies and their lobby groups and 17 with green campaign groups. The big six energy companies, which provide 99% of the energy used in UK homes, feature prominently, with 34 face-to-face meetings and a further seven with trade bodies representing their interests.

"Cash-strapped UK households are struggling with rocketing bills driven by the spiralling price of gas that the big six energy firms rely on to fuel their power stations," said Friends of the Earth executive director, Andy Atkins. "It's time to break the cosy relationship between the government and energy giants, and help new British companies provide clean home-grown energy we can all afford."

This might explain the growing scandal of four in ten Welsh households being in fuel poverty, as revealed in a Guardian exclusive:
A quarter of all households in England and Wales have now fallen in to fuel poverty following an autumn of steep increases in energy bills and stagnating incomes.
The dramatic increase in fuel poverty - up from nearly one in five households last year to one in four now - will be highly embarrassing to the government, which has a statutory obligation to eliminate fuel poverty by 2016. It now looks certain to fail to meet its legal duty.
Previous government projections forecast that this year would see 4.1m households in fuel poverty, which is defined as those who have to spend 10% or more of their income to achieve adequate warmth and light.
The breakdown reveals some startling differences - 17% of households in south-east England living in fuel poverty while Wales has 40%, more than double.

With the UK Government tucked up in bed with the energy companies, is it any wonder that the voices of those struggling to pay rapidly rising fuel bills is being ignored?

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