Energy justice not packed lunches

The idea at the core of our energy justice campaign is that corporate control of energy has failed to deliver for people or the planet, and that more democratic ways of running our energy systems are needed if we want everyone to be able to access the energy they need without destroying the climate or anyone’s backyard.

Events of this week have definitely demonstrated this. For ages, the Big Six energy companies have argued that we’ve had to have high bills because electricity and gas are simply expensive these days. But despite wholesale energy prices plummeting recently, our bills have barely budged.

This week, consumer group Which? released research showing that households have been £2.9bn (£145 each) worse off over the last year than if bills have been reduced in line with the reduced cost of producing energy. Funnily enough, that’s almost exactly the same amount as the big six made in profits in 2013 (the latest year for which figures are available).

It’s the same story around the world: from the UK to Uganda, where energy systems have been handed over the private companies, high prices are the inevitable result, as our recent briefing on the failures of privatisation shows.

Higher energy bills aren’t just an inconvenience: with the recent cold snap, figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that the cold winter death toll is set to top 40,000 – the highest in 15 years. Meanwhile, Age UK estimates that every winter, an older person dies needlessly of cold every seven minutes.

So what was the response from those supposed to oversee the energy companies? Rather than demand reductions in bills so that people can afford the energy they need to stay healthy, Ofgem offered a range of ways people could cut back on other expenses, such as by taking a packed lunch to work.

As grassroots campaign group Fuel Poverty Action said: “This is insulting and patronising. It’s the energy companies that need to change how they act, not us.” In response they held a ‘packed lunch’ protest outside Ofgem’s office in London, complete with packed lunches of peanut butter sandwiches and yogurts.

While Ofgem response to the protest was to lock its normally-open office doors, the case against the UK’s corporate controlled energy system is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Over the coming weeks there will be lots of ways to get involved in our energy justice campaign to challenge the corporate control of energy here and globally. Start today by taking action for energy rights for all.

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