Written evidence submitted by Centre for Sustainable Energy (WIN0054)

 

About Us

We’re a charity supporting people and organisations across the UK to tackle the climate emergency and end the suffering caused by cold homes. We do this by sharing our knowledge, practical experience and policy insights. For over 40 years, we’ve supported people to take effective action on energy in their homes. We help communities and local councils to understand energy issues, set priorities, and put plans into action. Our research and analysis focus on making the energy system greener, smarter and fairer. Through our advice line, home visits and one to one support, we support around 15,000 people a year to reduce their bills and make their homes more energy efficient.

We deliver fuel poverty services for two of the electricity network operators and six local authorities. Through these services we support thousands of people of low incomes who often have multiple vulnerabilities. They are unable to navigate the energy market without our support. Our support helps them stay warm by increasing their income via benefit applications, lowering their unserviceable debt by trust fund applications, establishing affordable debt management plans and wherever possible improving the energy performance of their homes. We help transform people’s lives and in many instances are the only agency who understands the energy market sufficiently to address their issues.

CSE’s response

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is a member of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition. We whole heartedly support their response to the select committee. For completeness we have included it below.

Summary and background

The problem: the hardest hit, the elderly, disabled and vulnerable still face abject fuel poverty

The Government may try to show the latest Ofgem price cap as proof that bills are falling. This is not the case in real terms.

 

While on the surface, it may appear that energy bills are declining year on year, the reality is the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme has ended. This kept the average bill 16% below the Energy Price Guarantee rate. Therefore, people will not feel any reduction in unit costs as the EBSS money has been taken away from them this winter.

 

Furthermore, analyst forecasts show that household energy bills will remain at dangerously high levels until at least July 2024:

 

 

Of course, households are also battling record prices for all other essentials and are still cutting back on essentials. According to the University of Bristol, a third (35%) of people were not able to afford a healthy balanced diet at least once in the past month and one in five of those in serious financial difficulties had not eaten for a whole day at least three times during the last month.

 

The Bank of England predicts that households have already used their savings accounts to support them through the cost of living crisis, eroding their ability to continue to pay energy bills which remain at record levels. Energy debt is also at record levels, with 5.5m adults owing their energy firms significant funds, while energy firms made record profits and are set to bank £1.74bn in profit over the next 12 months.

 

Research for the Warm This Winter campaign found that over 9 million adults already lived in cold damp homes last winter and official figures showed that cases of hypothermia surged by 36% while excess winter deaths soared by 13% compared to the year before. 

 

But 2022/23 was also a relatively mild winter, but records show that if average temperatures drop below 3.6 degrees for a prolonged period, we will see many more die. We cannot leave the safety of the most vulnerable to the chance of good weather.

 

All of these factors mean that winter 2023/24 could be worse than last winter.

While support has been promised to vulnerable households of up to £1,350 it does not go far enough as this is in the form of “cost of living payments” which will be swallowed up by the higher cost of essentials other than energy.

Among these households will be many who have pre-existing health conditions, are disabled, elderly or have young families. They often have higher energy requirements for health reasons and are the most susceptible to the health complications caused by living in a cold, damp home. In many cases these health complications will be life threatening.

Other groups, such as very low income single households, some rural areas and those living without mains gas or electricity only energy will also be hardest hit by fuel poverty this winter.

The Immediate Solutions

 

 

 

The cost of these measures to general taxation would be around £16.9bn. 

 

If the Government requires additional ideas to raise the funds for implementation for these proposals, there are a range of simple suggestions which could be adopted. For example, closing the energy firms windfall tax loophole, using the already allocated budget (but no no longer needed) to underwrite the Energy Price Guarantee, examining the additional profits generated by suppliers due to Ofgem rule changes around the Wholesale Cost Adjustment / Covid True Up allowances and examining the profits made during the energy bills crisis by energy trading firms and network distributors.

 

 

 

We also need to see the Government commit to:

 

 

 

Outside of the energy market, we support moves to provide additional cost of living support to help those who need it most:

 

 

August 2023