Energy democracy for London? The campaign begins…
By: Adriana Swain
Date: 23 March 2016
In the UK the Big Six energy companies have come to control 90% of thecountry’s energy supply. They have made themselves known for raising energy prices across the board and increasing their profits ten–fold since 2007 – so much that many people have either been pushed into debt or can no longer afford to heat their homes. The number of Londoners live in fuel poverty has reached one million, while 10.4 per cent of all households now living in fuel poverty. Despite wholesale oil and gas prices having dropped by one third in recent months, the Big Six continue to keep prices artificially high putting pressure on ordinary families.
The problems of fuel poverty and climate change are intricately intertwined. Both rely on us taking a different approach to our energy system. One that ensures energy is sourced sustainably and provided at a fair cost to all. High energy prices effect low income communities the most. We all have the right to affordable clean energy. Councils and landlords often install metered energy systems which require tenants pay 30-90% more than direct debit users – a situation which is not helped by households being poorly insulated.
In London, the campaign group Switched On London are calling on the Greater London Authority to create a 100% public and democratic renewable energy company. Millions are currently affected by Big Six plundering and Switched on London wants these people to have a say in their energy supply. The campaign takes inspiration from Nottingham, Bristol and Germany, where energy systems have been taken back from private interests in order to better serve people.
The campaign coalition is also drawing attention to a shadowy deal which is underway between Mayor Borris Johnson and German utility giant Npower. It is being done through the License Lite scheme which supplies large consumers such as TfL. The plans do not extend affordable energy to London residents, nor do they include democratic participation, even though taxes will be used to foot the bill. The scheme has been touted as a significant step toward energy independence. This is questionable to say the least given that Npower is one of the most ruthless of the Big Six companies. If Npower win this partnership with TFL it is very unlikely that there will be any accountability to ordinary energy users.
Switched On London has a vision of energy democracy where community’s energy workers participate in key company decisions. Without the need to pay dividends to shareholders, a publicly owned company would aim to supply clean energy at the lowest cost necessary to keep the company running well.
The Switched on London campaign is looking for mayoral candidates to support this urgent call for a fair and clean energy system. And there is work to be done to get people involved. Community forums are already underway and the first was on 4 February in City Hall. If London wants a modern energy supply which puts the needs of its citizens first, in the context of climate change it needs Switched On London’s campaign for democratic and public ownership.
Please sign the petition http://switchedonlondon.org.uk/get-involved/ to support the campaign for a clean, affordable energy, for people, not profit.