Close up photo of gas stove lit up

Why is there an energy crisis?

While gas and oil companies report billions worth of profits, vulnerable households are faced with rising costs and impossible choices. Find out why we’re facing an energy crisis, who’s to blame and what we can do about it.
  Published:  10 Feb 2022    |      Last updated:  05 Sep 2022    |      2 minute read

Why are energy bills rising?

In February 2022, energy regulator Ofgem announced it would raise the cap on the prices that energy companies are allowed to charge customers by 54%. That meant millions of people across the UK faced steeper bills from April.

There’s a lot of misinformation over what’s caused the hike in costs, but Ofgem itself states the increase in heating costs is because of a record rise in global gas prices.  

Who's to blame for the UK's energy crisis?

Over the past decade, the UK government has failed to invest in insulation, despite calls from environmental and fuel poverty groups.

A whopping 87% of UK households rely on gas. Such overreliance means we’re particularly vulnerable to changes in global prices, and that vulnerability is deepened by the fact our houses are poorly insulated compared to those in other European countries.

For decades successive governments, including this one, have missed opportunities to invest sufficiently in renewable energy. Had they prioritised clean energy and home insulation, the demand for gas to heat homes would be much lower and we’d be less exposed to current prices hikes.

The impact will be devastating, as more people face the choice of either buying food or heating their home. What’s more, with price hikes expected to remain until next winter, health inequalities will widen as households are forced to keep heating switched off. The elderly and clinically vulnerable are most at risk, as colder homes can lead to:

  • a higher chance of getting a respiratory infection and bronchitis
  • stress on the cardiovascular system
  • making asthma symptoms worse, or causing asthma to develop
  • an increased risk of mental health problems.

No one should have to prioritise eating or heating, particularly when oil and gas giants are reporting their biggest profits in years. Urgent support is needed to help those most at risk.

What about switching to green energy?

At Friends of the Earth, we're always happy to advise our supporters on how to switch to green energy. We normally recommend that you check out our fantastic partners, Ecotricity or Good Energy. However, due to the ongoing energy crisis, now's not an ideal time to switch energy supplier.

How can we end the energy crisis?

The energy crisis should be a wake-up call for the government to finally do what it should've done years ago and cut ties with unreliable fossil fuels. It’s outrageous they’ve let it come to this, but it's now clear that we need a more reliable system to heat our homes, once and for all.

The government needs to: 

  • Urgently impose a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help finance support for the most vulnerable households.
  • Help people insulate their homes, starting with the areas identified as energy crisis hotspots.
  • Implement a longer-term strategy to move to more reliable and cheaper renewable energy sources. 

Together with dozens of other organisations, we’ve written an open letter urging the prime minister to act. The solutions to the energy crisis are achievable.

Our United for Warm Homes campaign is being led by local grassroots groups campaigning for rapid, street-by-street insulation programmes, coordinated by councils, and to show politicians people's support for green, renewable energy.

Ultimately, our vision is of a country where everyone has a warm home that’s heated affordably and sustainable. We know it’s possible. 

We need a nationwide insulation programme to ensure warm homes for all

We need a nationwide insulation programme to ensure warm homes for all