In the UK, there are large differentials between the energy prices paid by consumers who regularly switch energy companies, and loyal consumers who don’t – generally those on lower incomes. In 2018, the UK government introduced legislation that required Ofgem, the energy regulator, to cap the differential between the two sets of consumers. Ofgem reviews this price cap every 6 months. It recently announced its decision to raise the cap by 12.2% later this year – an average annual fuel bill increase of £135.
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition, with whom STEP works in the UK, responded by highlighting the devastating impact of the hike on low income and fuel poor consumers, just at the time when the Government intends to remove Covid-related protections for low income households, and the advent of high winter fuel bills. It’s estimated that the move could create fuel poverty for a further 488,000 households, adding to the existing 3.2 million UK households in fuel poverty, as mentioned in the Coalition’s press release.
The campaign was a success, with almost every media outlet in the country covering the story in some shape or form. 72 articles online and in print, reaching 20.2m people, mentioned the Coalition, not including TV. Added to which many other media outlets either used messages, included comments from Coalition members or referred to the statistics provided. Media and politicians across the political divide responded to the Coalition’s concerns.
The price hike was thought likely to go ahead, but by working in partnership, STEP and the Coalition has put fuel poverty in the spotlight and firmly made the case for urgent change. In the UK, the STEP partners believe they are in a strong position to secure long term government action to improve fuel poor home energy standards and short term action to address the fuel affordability crisis.