National Energy Action says the average energy bill in 2004 was £580. By 2010 this had risen to £1,194. This winter households will face further bill increases of up to 20%.
Energy Secretary Chris Huhne announced this week at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Birmingham that he wanted to ‘get tough’ on the Big Six energy companies. He said they needed to simplify tariffs and make it easier to get a better deal on bills. However he was also quoted saying that many people ‘can’t be bothered’ to hunt for a better deal and would rather spend time hunting for a £25 toaster on-line than researching energy savings.
Debbie Hewitt, project manager at Wood U Waste, runs a project that helps vulnerable households in Gloucestershire to fuel switch. She warns that assisting those at most risk from rising fuel bills is not as easy as politicians seem to think. She said in a press release earlier this week: "We have worked with numerous groups of elderly people around the Stroud District and there is one message that comes across loud and clear. In the real world, the majority of people over 60 are not confident on the internet and are therefore excluded from searching for better energy deals online. Where is the government funding to empower the elderly to access these fuel switch sites?”
Locally at the next Scrutiny meeting we will be looking at the Energy Strategy for Stroud's Council housing - this is what I have been pushing for a number of years and recommended as chair of two scrutiny inquiries. I have also met with Officers on numerous occasions to give input to the strategy. I am delighted it is now coming forward - more on that soon - but equally I have concerns that in the current climate not enough will be done...
(i) Wood U Waste is a registered charity seeking to alleviate fuel poverty in various ways. Its briquette project works with Leyhill Prison to turn waste sawdust into low cost fuel. Two years ago this initiative was recognized as the ‘Best in Britain’ by a government-sponsored award scheme.
This winter Wood U Waste will be running a Winter Fuel Payment Appeal. It will be urging thousands of the more well-off households who will automatically receive the payments of between £200-300 to donate some or all of the cash to four local organisations working to keep vulnerable local people warm. One of these has a project offering visits to elderly people who cannot use the internet to help them search for better fuel deals on a laptop in their own homes.