It’s time to re-build Britain
A guest post by Ed Matthew from the Energy Revolution Campaign
Over the last decade successive Governments have failed to tackle the growing fuel poverty crisis caused by rocketing energy bills. There are now over 5 million households suffering and over 8 million households could be in fuel poverty within 4 years.
The human cost is horrendous. Over 7,000 people die every year from living in cold homes and illnesses related to fuel poverty cost the NHS over £1 billion each year. In fact the UK has the worst fuel poverty levels of any country in western Europe.
Children and the disabled are also badly affected. A recent survey for Netmums found that 1 in 4 of their members are having to choose this winter between heating and eating. This is a scandal for a developed country. Further research just published found that there are 1.6 million children living in fuel poverty and this could double to 3.2 million if energy bills go up by 25%.
Experts are united in their belief that the best long term solution to fuel poverty and rising energy bills is to make homes highly energy efficient. Friends of the Earth is one of the founding members of the Energy Bill Revolution and understands that making homes highly insulated is a chance to fix two major problems at the same time, both fuel poverty and climate change. We will only meet our carbon emission reduction targets if we are successful in massively ramping down our energy consumption. In turn we can only achieve this if we properly insulate our homes, which are responsible for a quarter of the UK's emissions.
But the Government's new flagship energy efficiency programme, the Green Deal, supported by the Energy Company Obligation, is set to fail. Homes are falling into fuel poverty faster than these policies will take them out and the emission reductions achieved by these polices will be limited. The Government's new energy efficiency policies are in fact so poorly designed that they threaten to destroy jobs in the insulation industry. The Insulation Industry Forum is warning that 16,000 jobs could be lost this year and that the redundancies have already begun.
Overall the Government has significantly cut financial support for the fuel poor. They have reduced spending on fuel poverty by 26% since the election. They have also reduced energy efficiency funding for the fuel poor by 44% with the only Exchequer funded energy efficiency programme directed at vulnerable households, Warm Front, in the process of being axed.
But it doesn't need to be this way. The Energy Bill Revolution is the biggest fuel poverty alliance ever created. Over 100 major charities, businesses, unions and consumer groups have come together to call on the Government to support a far more ambitious programme to make all UK homes highly energy efficient, prioritising the fuel poor.
Together, we are calling for this energy efficiency programme to be funded by recycling carbon tax. The Government will raise an average of £4 billion in carbon tax every year for the next 15 years. This is enough to super-insulate 9 million homes, wiping out fuel poverty. In time it could help super insulate every UK home, saving the average household over £400 a year in energy costs. It would create an insulation programme 5 times bigger than the programme we have now and it wouldn't add a penny extra to consumer bills. The programme would be funded from the tax consumers are already paying.
Ground-breaking new research by Cambridge Econometrics and Verco has also shed light on one of the most exciting impacts of such a programme. They modelled the impact of a major energy efficiency programme funded by carbon revenue on jobs and growth. They also analysed how it would compare to an equivalent investment boost in general infrastructure, public sector spending or tax cuts.
They concluded that the energy efficiency programme wins hands down. It creates more jobs and growth than anything else. It could create 71,000 new jobs by 2015 and up to 130,000 by 2027. It is 'shovel ready', fast to mobilise and stimulates economic activity and jobs in all regions of the UK.
It would also reduce NHS expenditure on treating cold-related illnesses such as respiratory and coronary diseases. It also reduces gas consumption, increasing consumer purchasing power, helping stimulate the economy across the UK. The economic, social and environmental benefits are simply massive.
The implications of these findings are significant. It means that if the Government is really serious about re-building the economy it needs to prioritise above all else a programme to re-build the UK's homes. This should be the Government's number one economic priority.
The Government claims that the UK can't afford to end fuel poverty. The Energy Bill Revolution says the reverse is true. We can't afford not to.
Posts by guest bloggers do not necessarily refllect the views of Friends of the Earth
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