And a lot of us can’t afford enough energy to keep warm. About a quarter of households in Calderdale live in fuel poverty – defined as having to spend at least one tenth of income on heating the house to a decent, healthy temperature ( 21 degrees C for the main living space, 18 degrees C for other rooms). Nationally, the proportion of households in fuel poverty is projected to rise to one in three by 2016, if things go on as they are.
What to do?
The Energy Bill Revolution
The Energy Bill Revolution is a campaign to make energy bills affordable to all, through the UK government recycling carbon taxes into insulating people’s homes. This will make homes warmer so people have to use less energy to heat them. It would bring nine out of ten fuel-poor households out of fuel poverty, cut carbon emissions and create jobs.
Research in 2008 by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and Buildings Research Establishment showed that every £1 spent on improving energy efficiency in homes where cold is likely to damage people’s health, saves the NHS £34.19 over 10 years, per 100,000 homes. I don’t exactly understand that statistic, but it sounds as if using carbon tax revenue to pay for people’s home energy efficiency improvements would save money spent on the NHS. So arguing that we can’t afford it because of the need to cut public spending probably isn’t going to wash.
What are these carbon taxes and who pays them?
There are two main carbon taxes: the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the carbon price floor, that’s due to start in April 2013. The carbon price floor will establish the rate of fuel duty or climate change levy payable on fossil fuels used to generate electricity. The amount payable will depend on the average carbon content of each type of fossil fuel.
Using the money from these carbon taxes to pay for home insulation and other energy efficiency measures would reduce the energy people use and help cut carbon emissions.
There’s also a strong social equity case for spending these carbon tax revenues on improving home energy efficiency.
These carbon taxes will initially increase the cost of electricity, and help shift investment away from fossil fuel electricity generation, towards more renewable electricity generation. When that’s happened, the cost of electricity will come down. But in the meantime, the electricity price increases will push more households into fuel poverty and disproportionately affect single parents and pensioners, who generally spend proportionally more on energy bills than other people do.
The Energy Bill Revolution is supported by by alliance of children’s and older people’s charities, health and disability groups, environment groups, consumer groups, trade unions, businesses, politicians and public figures
Energy Bill Revolution Petition
If you think the UK government should do this, you can sign a petition here.
Early Day Motion 47
In the new session of Parliament, an MP has put forward EDM 47 that calls for Parliament to pass the Energy Bill Revolution proposal for the UK government to recycle carbon taxes into insulating people’s homes.
You can email Calderdale’s MP firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to sign Early Day Motion 47. So far, 135 MPs have signed it.
Cooperative energy and collective switching
Cooperative Energy , a coop with over 200,000 members, provides cheaper energy for member households. To try it out, you can just input your postcode and answer some online questions about your current energy use and the website will tell you if you will make any savings by becoming a member of the coop. The energy it provides is greener than Big Six energy (less than half the carbon emissions) and it has one simple tariff for everyone. This avoids the unfairness of most Big Six tariffs which charge higher tariffs for low energy use.
An organisation called The People’s Power is running a collective switching project to negotiate with energy companies – including green energy companies – to get a cheaper deal for households who’ve signed up with People’s Power. It needs 5,000 people to sign up before it can start negotiating.
The campaigning organisation 38 Degrees has worked with Which? on the Big Switch. 200,000 people signed up to the scheme, and the consumer group Which? negotiated with the big six energy companies in April to get better prices for households. However there have been some criticisms that the Which?/38 Degrees Big Switch stands to make a lot of money out of the scheme.
Maybe it’s time to find out about setting up an energy coop in Calderdale? Perhaps Calderdale Council could support this as part of its commitment to supporting low carbon community groups as part of its new Calderdale’s Energy Future vision?
The Coalition government has cut free and discounted home insulation and other help with safe, warm homes by about one third
You may be able to get help with improving home energy efficiency from the new Energy Company Obligation (ECO). The ECO has partly replaced other schemes, such as Warm Front, that provided free and discounted home insulation and improved home heating.
Grants for home energy efficiency improvements stopped at the end of 2012