Energy price rises are a global phenomenon. As countries across the world reopen their economies, demand for many things - including energy - has gone up.
In Europe, an unusually cold and prolonged winter last year, led to the depletion of gas reserves, and wind power generation has been reduced owing to fewer windy days than usual over the past year.
But while many countries have the resilience to ride these waves, not all of us are in the same boat.
In fact, Britain is an exceptionally leaky ship. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, least not the Government. The question is, why did the Government not take steps to repair Britain’s broken energy system? Because now, ordinary people are paying the price for a system that has been ailing and failing for far too long. Here are just a few reasons why Brits have it so bad:
British housing stock is particularly draughty. Our homes ‘leak’ three times more heat than houses elsewhere in Europe. This means that our homes get colder, faster and that we therefore need to use more energy to keep them at a warm temperature in the winter season. This is both highly energy inefficient and economically inefficient. There are several consequences of poor housing - but one of the most troubling ones is poor health. The NHS currently spends £1.4 billion annually treating people for ill health caused by poor housing conditions.
In March 2021, the Government quietly scrapped its flagship green homes grant. Despite the fact that the UK’s homes are deeply energy inefficient, the Government pressed pause on spending to repair them. Thus, plans to insulate draughty homes or install low-carbon heating technologies have fallen by the wayside. This lack of sustainable planning is what has left energy prices in the UK escalating. In addition, the decision to scrap this grant has closed the door on 200,000 potential green jobs. While the Government has now announced a raft of new green measures in the lead-up to COP26, many experts are skeptical as to how much these pledges can achieve. Just 90,000 low-carbon heat pumps are to be installed over the next three years - and as Caroline Lucas pointed out, these technologies won’t work in draughty homes.
There is very little gas storage in the UK. Despite the UK relying heavily on imports of gas for its energy supply, the UK has less than 1% of Europe’s gas storage capacity. This has made the UK particularly vulnerable to shocks caused by the volatile gas market.
Britain has left Europe’s internal energy market. This has now significantly increased the regulatory complexity of trading energy with Europe - and has also led to increased administrative costs. Plans for new energy interconnectors - smoothen the trade in energy - have been abandoned as a result of Brexit. All this then results in higher prices for consumers.
- Finally, it’s not just Britain itself that is particularly badly affected by rising energy prices. The poorest people in Britain are currently faced with some of the worst increases. Not only are they more likely to live in poor housing stock, but poorer Britons already pay higher energy prices, often as a result of being put on costly pre-payment meter plans by their energy companies.
Britain is suffering the worst effects of the energy price crisis. But this is the consequence of political choices and the Government’s new green policies go nowhere near far enough to combat the crisis of environmental and economic inefficiency that is assailing British people.
To find out how you can get involved and campaign against the poor planning that has got us to this place, visit www.bestforbritain.org/levelup.