6 million UK homes may be unable to pay their energy bills after price hikes, charity warns | Fuel poverty

The number of UK households living in fuel poverty could reach the highest level on record by this spring, unless the government passes the blow of a looming record hike in energy bills, according to a charity against fuel poverty.

Around 4 million homes in the UK were already classified as low on fuel before a spike in global energy market prices triggered one of the biggest energy bill hikes on record in October, but activists are bracing for a record increase in the number of people unable to pay their energy bills. after another hike this spring.

The National Energy Action charity has warned that the double blow to household bills could tip at least 2 million more households into fuel poverty compared to early 2021, bringing the total to 6 million households. This would be the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK since the record began in 1996.

The looming energy price hike has yet to be finalized by the regulator, but Adam Scorer, chief executive of National Energy Action, told the Observer that the number of fuel-poor households “would skyrocket” in April. It is expected to worsen the UK’s national energy crisis and worsen the ‘year of the squeeze’, predicted by the Resolution Foundation last week, which threatens to unleash a ‘cost of living catastrophe’ for desperate families.

Households are already paying record prices to put gasoline in their cars and can expect the cost of consumer goods to skyrocket as fuel prices and supply chain disruptions take a toll. havoc on big business.

“Those with the lowest incomes and less efficient homes will not only face financial hardship, but intolerable living conditions, poor health and, for many, shortened lives,” said Scorer. . “It’s not just guesswork. It will happen and we have had enough time to see it come and act.

Energy market prices rose steadily during 2021 before reaching record highs in October and new highs in December. The market rally fueled one of the biggest energy price increases in the history of the liberalized UK energy market.

Ed Miliband, shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, said: “Workers are hit by a cost of living crisis that has seen energy bills soar, food costs rise and the budget weekly stretched. The government must take urgent action to support those struggling to pay their bills. “

Senior officials from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Treasury and No 10 met with industry regulator Ofgem and executives from the UK’s largest energy suppliers in recent weeks to develop a plan to avert the looming national energy crisis. . No action has yet been agreed and more meetings are scheduled this week.

The government’s energy price cap could allow the average energy bill to soar to almost £ 2,000 a year when it is reset in April, from £ 1,138 the previous year, to help cover the cost of dozens of failed power providers, according to industry experts.

The Labor Party called for a reduction in VAT on energy bills as a first step to help every household this winter, and the party would also “increase its ambition with our plan to renovate 19 million homes” to make them more energy efficient and help lower household bills.

“It is a moral and social scandal that energy poverty exists in modern Britain. But with national leadership, we can beat it – and make sure everyone has the warm and safe home they deserve, ”added Miliband.

A government spokesperson said consumer protection was its “top priority”, which is why it is maintaining the cap on energy prices, alongside programs such as the $ 500 million household support fund. of pounds sterling, the rebate for warm houses, winter fuel payments for those over 65 and cold weather payments.

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