Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/791/17837
End fuel poverty: Nationalise the big six energy companies
The bosses of the 'big six' energy companies should be in the dock. 31,000 extra people, mostly pensioners, died last winter. With 3.2 million households in fuel poverty and one in four families forced to choose between eating and heating, how many more will die this winter?
With almost calculating cruelty, all the big energy suppliers have announced more and bigger price hikes just as we go into winter.
Even Ofgem, the toothless regulator, has admitted: "There is a deep mistrust of anything the energy companies do or say... It is not surprising the customers jump to the conclusion that prices are driven by profiteering." It is not surprising because it's true!
Fuel bills have gone up 152% in the last ten years. Their profits have gone up 74% since 2009, to £3.74 billion last year.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) pay over 60% of their profits to shareholders in dividends, and npower haven't paid any UK tax for the last three years!
British Gas paid just five bosses £16.4 million in bonuses in March this year. Parent company Centrica's chief executive Sam Laidlaw got £4.9 million in salary and bonuses last year, enough to pay the annual fuel bills of 3,500 households.
Huge public anger has forced politicians to be seen to be doing something. They all say "switch suppliers" but the big six, with 95% of all domestic customers, operate a price cartel and run a virtual monopoly.
The Con-Dems advised people suffering fuel poverty to wear an extra jumper, the Centrica boss said wear two! Ed Miliband says a Labour government would freeze energy prices for 20 months but we all know they'll just stick them up before and after.
Now Cameron and Clegg have said they will cut energy bills by £50. Wow! Fifty quid after prices have already gone up £300 a year under the coalition.
But even this is a con. They say that the Warms Homes Discount will now be funded by the government rather than paid on bills, by wait for it, "cracking down on tax avoidance". Yeah, like that's going to happen!
So customers will simply end up paying for it through taxes. And the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) to provide insulation and energy saving is being watered down meaning higher bills for longer!
The insulation industry Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) got it right: "The government has been hoodwinked by the big six energy firms who don't want to insulate people's homes because it means less profit for them."
Spot on. Even some Tories have said that the energy market isn't working properly, and Ed Miliband wants to re-set it. But price fixing, tax avoidance and maximising profits is how the market, ie capitalism, works.
You can't control what you don't own. That's why the Socialist Party says that the energy companies should be re-nationalised (which around 70% of people agree with), brought back into public ownership, and run democratically in the interests of workers and consumers.
Then, prices can be controlled, bills made affordable, and profits invested in cheaper, cleaner and safer energy supplies, rather than fat-cats' pockets and shareholder dividends!
A clause in the government's energy bill will remove 800,000 households out of fuel poverty. How? By re-defining fuel poverty!
Currently, a household is fuel poor if it spends 10% of income on heating. In future, households will only be deemed fuel poor if they have "required fuel costs that are above average and were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line".
This is fixing the figures, not the problem!
In The Socialist 4 December 2013:
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