The greed of energy corporations results in thousands of deaths each year

Fuel poverty will end only when we bring our energy supply back under democratic control.

Fuel poverty will end only when we bring our energy supply back under democratic control

While politicians are pointing their guns at Russia as the big threat to our energy security, the UK energy system has been hijacked by a cartel of energy companies.

The ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers are holding the UK hostage with threats of blackouts while reaping billions of pounds in profits and leaving millions unable to afford energy.

If we want to ensure a sustainable energy production and tackle fuel poverty, we must hand our energy supply back to democratic control.

The sad state of our energy system became abundantly clear last year when Labour proposed a price freeze on energy. The Big Six responded by threatening that blackouts would hit the country if anything were done to loosen their tight grip of on UK energy.

Nevertheless, after a year without such government intervention in the energy market and with skyrocketing profits in the sector, we are edging closer and closer to blackouts.

A quick look at the last decade of corporate controlled energy leaves little doubt that the solution to fixing the energy system is claiming back control of energy rather than letting corporate energy run free.

In the 10 years from 2002-2012, energy consumption by people in the UK fell by 17 per cent, but energy bills still went up by more than 50 per cent. This growth is reflected in a leap in Big Six profits, from £8 per customer in 2009 to an estimated £102 this year.

Government regulator Ofgem has expressed fears that savings from falling wholesale energy prices will be eaten up by Big Six profits rather than being passed on to consumers. In fact, Big Six profit margins have already gone up by a third this year.

It is high time politicians face up to the fact that the real threat to our energy security is corporate greed that rips people off with unaffordable fuel bills and threatens to blackout our energy system.

Thousands of people in the UK are already facing de facto blackouts as they are unable to afford fuel bills. That is the true cost of letting our energy be controlled by profit-hungry corporations.

Along with ever-increasing profits for big energy corporations, privatisation of the sector has brought a continued reliance on dirty fossil fuels and skyrocketing fuel poverty. In the winter of 2012-2013, 10,000 people died in the UK because they could not afford to heat their homes.

That is roughly equivalent to the population of Epping.

With fuel poverty on the rise, this winter is likely to bring even more deaths, even more people with deteriorating health due to cold and damp housing and even more parents that have to make the hard choice between eating and keeping their children warm.

Some of these tragic deaths get media coverage; for example the case of David Clapson, who died after he got his benefits sanctioned and could no longer afford to top up his electricity meter to keep his insulin chilled. But most cases remain anonymous numbers in faceless statistics.

The people dying from fuel poverty are not just statistics; they are our friends, our families and people from our communities dying of very preventable causes.

In essence, we are facing a choice between profits for the Big Six, and the lives of tens of thousands of people. That should not be a difficult choice to make.

On 28 November the National Institute of Statistics will reveal the number of people who died from cold homes last winter. We cannot let the death of people stay hidden and we cannot let this atrocity continue.

Therefore Fuel Poverty Action will – along with pensioners, disabled people, students and other people facing fuel poverty – be commemorating the deaths from fuel poverty and demanding the right to affordable, clean energy under democratic control.

A warm home should be a right, not a privilege for the few. Affordable energy that doesn’t destroy the environment or the climate should be on the top of the political agenda agenda, not corporate profits. Last month Fuel Poverty Action launched the Energy Bill of Rights to demand a shift to green, affordable energy under democratic control.

We need an energy system that works for people, not for profit. We are not going to get that while a few powerful corporations are controlling our energy system.

It is time to take back power and create an energy system independent from profit-hungry corporations and independent from dirty fossil fuels.

Join the protest in London on 28 November to call for democratically controlled energy that will put an end to fuel poverty.

Morten Thaysen is digital communications assistant at the World Development Movement, and an activist with Fuel Poverty Action

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29 Responses to “The greed of energy corporations results in thousands of deaths each year”

  1. madasafish

    Meanwhile, in the real world, UK energy prices are nearly the cheapest in Europe.

    And we face a MASSIVE investment program needed to replace old power stations. £16B for a new nuclear power station.And we have nine of the top 30 biggest CO2 emitting coal-fired plants in Europe,

    Someone is going to fund the £ billions to replace them. After finding the £billions to take them into public ownership.

    So what does the author suggest we do to fund this? Err nothing.

    Words. Bull excrement.

    Not worth reading.

  2. littleoddsandpieces

    Syriza in Greece offered in its latest election manifesto, free electricity to the poorest, which in the UK are those on the 20 per cent lowest income, the majority of which will be the working poor and poor pensioners with only the state pension.

    There is the technology out there, even retro fitting, to make every single building self generate its own electricity, and that can only come about with a nationalised electric, water, sewerage and landfill, all of which can generate electricity for their own power and the power of the nation. This is joined up thinking that cannot happen with privatised competing companies.

    Nuclear power is too dangerous and too expensive.
    Wind farms just plain silly waste of a billion in subsidies.
    Closing down coal fired power stations is the cause of black-outs which will kill people each winter. There are moth-balled gas power stations because private companies cannot get enough profit. Energy from waste power stations burn still edible food, with government subsidies, when Fareshare, the source of surplus food to food banks, gets not subsidy, and gets only 5,000 tonnes, when 400,000 tonnes get burnt, so denying feeding the starving caused by welfare reform.

    The death of 30,000 elderly each winter and the poor freezing in unheated homes is not a cost, but institutionalised homicide by the state.

    The loss of state pension payout since 2013 to women born from 1953 for half a decade

    and the year’s loss to men born from 1951, will also mean more old people in fuel poverty as they will suffer NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE and three quarters will get an even lower state pension that the level today that is lowest of all rich nations bar poor Mexico.

  3. Reconstruct

    I don’t suppose the array of ‘green’ taxes and imposts, which apparently put £112 on the average annual electricity bill, are doing any harm? Not contributing to fuel poverty at all? No, thought not.

  4. itdoesntaddup

    Our expensive energy is entirely the consequence of politicians (especially Miliband/Huhne/Davey) and their whims, enthusiastically pursued by DECC and OFGEM. Energy companies have no ability to compete to lower prices – they are compelled by law to provide or buy expensive power from wind farms while closing down our cheapest sources of electricity, and prevented from exploiting the shale gas beneath our feet that could lower gas prices below LNG import cost.

  5. itdoesntaddup

    Most of your post is spot on. However, it is quite wrong to suggest that microgeneration is an economic salvation. Were that so, the pressure to change the law to permit it would have been overwhelming. There are significant economies of scale to be had where energy is concerned. That’s the consequence of some basic physics.

  6. AileenCheetham

    Join the Coop Energy

  7. Guest

    Spending billions on micro-generation to generate little power, as you copy/pasta your rant and pro-Hamas site link.

  8. Guest

    No, your world is quite unreal, of course.

    Gas is fairly cheap, but electricity is absolutely not – 16 EU states are cheaper, per EU statistics for H1 2013. And of course it’s risen sharply here again since them. And it’s the third most expensive, pre-tax (it’s very low tax!)

    The correct figure for inadequate heating in the UK is 17% as of January 2014, too.

    So no, your post is not worth reading, as it also completely ignores cost of living issues, where the UK’s housing prices leaves little margin, and ignores the fact that housing benefit is falling rapidly in value and people (unlike much of Europe) get no direct aid with utility costs.

    Or the widespread usage of expensive pre-pay meters in the UK, or…

  9. Guest

    Ah yes, the myths of shale gas again, showing you have no interest in lower bills, just a lower tax bill by shifting from North Sea production, where more tax is payable.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    Their “bill” is claptrap which will radically increase energy prices and lead to constant disconnections for poorer areas, since it rejects base-load power in favour of expensive variable generation.

    If they were really concerned, they’d support nuclear power.
    So, you’re supporting rich Tory landowners and their wind farms, afaik.

  11. Guest

    Yes, i.e. nuclear power is the answer in the medium term.

    Not your fracking.

  12. Just Visiting

    > Our expensive energy…

    You really ought tiohave read Madasafish before you posted – he had already pointed to official stats that show our energy is well below European averages.

  13. itdoesntaddup

    You really ought to have checked out how expensive our energy is in comparison with the US or China before posting. That many other EU countries follow equally mad energy policies I do not dispute.

  14. Just Visiting

    > There is the technology out there, even retro fitting, to make every single building self generate its own electricity,

    But at what cost – and if you suggest that this does not make financial sense to install for a home owner unless supported by tax-payers money: then why should this technology be tax-payer funded?
    Why not restart the coal mines; get back to the day when coal-miners made a loss and tax-payer money kept the mines open?
    Or why not subsidise off-shore windfarms instead?
    Or use tax-payers money to replace every home lightbulb with an LED one?

    It’s not an easy game: spending tax-payers money and being sure you get the value for it.

  15. Guest

    The actual stats he used say differently. And his other claim is quite incorrect.

  16. CGR

    No mention here of the carbon taxes that are really pushing up prices.

  17. madasafish

    The article was about energy. You talk about house prices. I gave facts. You give none.

    So until you come up with proof of your assertions, I ignore what you say about energy. And ignore house prices and benefits as those are just an irrelevant rant by you.

  18. madasafish

    You don’t expect an activist to tell the truth , surely?

    Dear me, telling all the facts would make the writer look like one sided zealot…with a permanent bias .. which they are of course.

  19. madasafish

    For once we agree..eek! 🙂

  20. Tom

    Please provide the figures showing a breakdown of carbon taxes in comparison with other causes of price increases.

  21. Leon Wolfeson

    No, I don’t support your support for nuclear bombs being dropped on Britain. There’s a slight difference.

  22. Guest

    Right right, the facts I gave are not facts, as you utterly ignore anything which does not fit your views.

    You, as ever, call anything outside your agenda an “irrelevant rant”, as you come here to limit discussion and to make frantic excuses for energy poverty as you cackle over people sitting in the cold and dark.

  23. Guest

    No, I don’t expect you to tell the truth, zealot.

  24. Guest

    No mention of the record profits, I see.

  25. madasafish

    You are a master of trite remarks which show yourself up as a smarta#se…

  26. Guest

    I’m sure you view it that way, I note of course your post is content-free, and you’ve not been able to argue with my accuracy.

  27. madasafish

    If you compared UK Planning policies with those of the US and China, you would see some of the differences in building costs…

    Planning for a new power station in the UK can take more than a decade…

  28. itdoesntaddup

    Planning isn’t the reason why we pay £150/MWh+ for offshore wind power

  29. madasafish

    The two Eds – Miliband and Davey are.

    Only idiots build offshore wind farms.. Greater risk of damage and far higher maintenance costs. Plus far higher capital costs.

    Only dumbos would invest in that scenario.

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