‘A farcical detachment from reality’: Green groups respond to Government’s energy bills plan

The Government has unveiled plans to introduce a price freeze on energy bills to combat the energy crisis, but decisions to reverse fracking bans and not introduce a windfall tax on energy firms have been criticised by green groups.

‘A farcical detachment from reality’: Green groups respond to Government’s energy bills plan

Truss outlined a flurry of new commitments to combat the energy crisis

The package includes a new price freeze on household energy bills, effectively eliminating the £3,549 price cap due to come in October. Instead, the price cap has been frozen at £2,500 for the next two years from 1 October, which the Government believes will deliver a “pro-growth, pro-business and pro-investment approach for the country’s energy security”.

Also mentioned was a reverse on the fracking back and a new wave of licenses for oil and gas drilling. These, along with the decision not to introduce a windfall tax on energy firms and a complete lack of focus on built environment energy efficiency have been met with disappointment by green groups.

Read the key details of the energy price plan here.

While the green economy has been quick to welcome immediate measures to reduce the swirling costs of energy, which were on course to surpass £3,000 next year, many have expressed disappointment as to a lack of measures to promote green solutions. Others are concerned as to how these price freezes will be funded.

Here edie rounds up the green reaction as it comes in.

Nick Wayth, chief executive Energy Institute

“Today’s news on consumer energy bills from the UK’s new PM, Lizz Truss, is welcome for the millions of households and businesses struggling to keep up with rising energy bills. It provides essential relief ahead of the coming winter months.

However, it’s only a temporary escape from underlying international gas prices which remain at record levels and are likely to do so for the foreseeable future. For the UK (and all countries) to have a secure, affordable and clean energy system, and escape the triple energy crisis for good, we also urgently need to see ministers put in place permanent solutions: to end energy waste through renewed and sustained investment in energy efficiency for homes and buildings; to accelerate the deployment of affordable, shovel-ready renewables and reform the market so those cost reductions feed through to the bills consumers pay and to decarbonise our use of oil and gas.”

Dr Carole Easton, Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better

“We are relieved that the new Prime Minister has responded to the severity of the crisis that is set to unfold this winter and is applying a remedy that goes some way to matching the magnitude of the problem.

“Even so, this is not the perfect solution for the most vulnerable who will see their energy costs doubling compared to last winter. This may well lead to miserable months of financial and personal hardship, including for a significant proportion of older households on fixed incomes. We want to see the government redoubling its efforts on awareness-raising around pension credits as 800,000 are still missing out on the additional cost of living support this provides. The government must ensure a two-year window of energy price stability and use it wisely to deal with a fundamental issue at the heart of the problem – the UK’s appallingly inefficient homes. We urgently need a national retrofit programme to make homes more energy efficient as part of a broader move to improve people’s homes.”

Justina Miltienyte, head of policy at Uswitch.com

“With the pressure lifted for this winter, we welcome the announcement of an energy supply task force that must now sort out the structural problems of the wholesale energy market and how it interacts with the blunt price cap mechanism.

“Reforming the wholesale market goes hand-in-hand with reducing our dependence on non-renewable energy. Electricity prices can no longer be dictated by fossil fuels, especially gas, and it’s good to see a commitment to more quickly let customers benefit from the lower prices generated by renewables.

“Removing gas dependency would also protect households from a repeat of the most aggressive price shocks. The Government has made a start towards tackling the energy crisis, but now needs to work out how to make sure this never happens again.”

Jess Ralston, Senior Analyst with the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)

“All the experts and even the industry agree more UK gas won’t bring down British bills. To bring down bills we need to use less gas by investing in insulating homes, a measure which could be cost neutral to the Treasury given it will spend billions on the price cap freeze.

“There is a real danger of the Government serving up a red herring with local communities likely to oppose fracking rigs while focus is diverted from efficiency and renewables which can be quick to introduce and are popular, rather than unpopular, with the public.”

Hannah Martin, Co Director of Green New Deal Rising

“This isn’t a real energy prize freeze if people’s bills are still rising to unaffordable levels and the cost is going to be paid by the public for years to come. We need a windfall tax now that puts cash back into people’s hands and public ownership that stop companies profiting off the public purse whilst ordinary people pay the price. The only way to deal with this crisis in the long term is a Green New Deal to rapidly get us off dirty and expensive gas and onto clean and home grown renewables whilst creating millions of good green jobs.

“New fracking and North Sea oil and gas will make flooding and droughts here and everywhere more likely, accelerating the climate emergency. That will be Liz Truss’ legacy and that is why movements like Green New Rising will be organising young people en masse to vote her out at the next election.”

Andy Prendergast, GMB National Secretary

“It is a stain on this Government that our nation’s energy supplies are in such a vulnerable state. The Tories have been in office for 12 years; their failures to build new nuclear power stations, to protect and utilise our gas storage capacity and willingness to engage in political groupthink on domestic on and offshore resources, means we are playing catch up in the race to defend ourselves against the global energy crisis.

“Today’s announcement only scratches the surface of what we need for long-term energy security.”

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth,

“The government’s energy plan is farcical in its detachment from reality. It does nothing to tackle the root cause of the energy crisis – our reliance on costly, polluting fossil fuels – and only lines the pockets of the oil and gas companies driving the cost of living and climate emergencies.

“Most of us will be relieved about the cap on energy bills ahead of this winter but with energy, food and fuel costs remaining high many people will still struggle to heat their homes and put food on the table.

“To bring down bills for good, we need a street-by-street insulation programme targeted at the neighbourhoods where most homes are poorly insulated. There are five million homes without even basic insulation, such as loft or cavity wall insulation, and the Committee on Climate Change has said 15 million homes would benefit from other insulation measures.

“The biggest winners today are the oil and gas companies. Not only will they benefit from the green light for more fossil fuel extraction but the tens of billions of pounds of public expenditure on the energy cap will go into their pockets and further fuel their eye-watering profits.”

Simon Virley CB, Vice Chair and Head of Energy and Natural Resources at KPMG

“In the face of unprecedented rising energy bills, there was no other option than for the Government to step in and provide direct financial support given the scale of the crisis facing many households and businesses. Capping household bills at £2500 pa for average use is a huge intervention, yet bills will still be almost twice the levels of last winter.  A uniform price cap is also a blunt instrument and financial support won’t be directed on those who need it most. Many businesses will also be concerned about what happens after the six months of support the Government has promised today.

“Looking beyond the immediate support package, there appears an assumption that wholesale gas prices will start to fall back again next year, but this is in no way guaranteed. The supply side measures announced, including on nuclear, fracking and North Sea oil and gas will take years to take effect. There are cheaper alternatives available, like onshore wind and solar, which have overwhelming public support, and could be deployed much more quickly. The absence of any serious attempt to reduce demand and improve energy efficiency is a major omission in the plans announced today.”

Mike Thornton, chief executive, Energy Saving Trust

“The scale of the emergency measures announced today serves to further highlight the depth and breadth of the energy crisis. We welcome the resolve to take immediate action to reduce costs and increase energy security for both the short and long term, whilst remaining committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The freeze on energy costs will give a welcome reprieve for many households and businesses concerned about paying their bills this winter. However, we need more detail on what targeted support will be available for the most vulnerable, as hundreds of thousands still risk being plunged into fuel poverty with bills set to rise further. We also need urgent clarity on what support will be available to those who are off the gas grid and use fuels such as oil to heat their home. However, our continued over reliance on fossil fuels is the catalyst for high costs, energy insecurity and a warming planet. The commitment to further fossil fuel extraction is therefore concerning and a step in the wrong direction, it is not the solution to the problems we face.”

Harriet Lamb, chief executive, Ashden

“The emergency intervention announced by the Prime Minister Liz Truss is a much-needed immediate fix. But to address this once and for all we needed the announcement to include the two Rs – that is, a country wide retrofit programme and rapid scale up of cheap and quick renewable energy. The crisis is caused by high oil and gas prices – drilling for more will not address that key problem. It will take years and will add to the climate crisis. Investing in renewables is quicker, cheaper and is the only solution to the climate emergency we are in.”

Kate Norgrove, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF

“Rather than breaking a manifesto promise by reopening the door to fracking, while expanding North Sea oil and gas, and propping up outdated, volatile and damaging fossil fuels – which will fuel climate chaos whilst doing little to bring down bills – the government should be investing in futureproofing our energy system, saving taxpayers money for years to come.

“Support for households this winter is essential but, without a mass programme to insulate homes, turbocharge cheap renewable generation, and a clear plan to pay for the price freeze in a way that protects consumers, it risks being little more than a very expensive sticking plaster. The Prime Minister should look again at her plan and focus on solutions that will genuinely cut bills while tackling the climate crisis.”

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