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Fuel Poverty Action’s energy pricing plan is not just for the poorest

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It’s great to see Polly Toynbee’s article about our proposal for Energy for All, a free band of energy to cover basic needs (People are struggling to pay their energy bills – here’s a simple idea that could help, 21 April). As she says, this would reverse the present perverse situation where cutting down on energy leads you to pay more, not less, per unit. And it would provide some desperately needed security. The article helped take our petition to more than 350,000.

Our proposal is that the core funding should come from ending the huge taxpayer subsidies now going to fossil fuel extractors, and a windfall tax on the obscene profits being made by extractors and suppliers.

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Raising prices so that people pay more for using more than they need would indeed be part of the mix, applied to profligate energy use: some people leave the heat on in their multi-bedroomed house while others freeze in a bedsit. With the rapid hoovering up and hoarding of wealth by the very rich, many can afford to pay more for their energy.

But Fuel Poverty Action is not proposing indiscriminate price rises for everyone using more than just “enough to just about manage frugally in a small home”. While the details are yet to be worked out – by a public conversation involving more than just FPA – we are looking at energy audits that could take into account people’s real situation: age, disabilities, household size and the energy efficiency of the home. It is not only people on the lowest incomes who are struggling now.

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Eminently doable (much of this data is already gathered), audits would determine the amount of free energy to be allocated. It would also powerfully incentivise the government to insulate homes and back solar panels. And we should receive our free energy in kind, not in cash – a protection against speculators, profiteers and inflation.
Ruth London
Fuel Poverty Action

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