Regen welcomes the government’s new measures of support for those struggling with the cost of living. Now, we call for more urgent and considerable action to be taken across the whole energy system to address the fundamental issues driving this crisis and to lay the foundation for a cleaner, more secure, and fairer energy system that works for people and planet.

This statement was written by Fraser Stewart, Regen’s just transition lead.

To help those struggling with soaring energy prices and the wider cost-of-living, the UK government has announced a package of support designed to alleviate mounting financial pressures in the coming months. This includes support worth approximately £1200 targeted at the UK’s most vulnerable households, along with a £400 universal energy rebate, to overlap with the further energy price cap increase in October. 

While this support is very much welcome and will serve as a lifeline for many, on its own it will not go far enough. Millions were already struggling as a result of price cap rises in the last year, which has seen bills rise by an average of £1500. As a result, payments now will be a matter of helping people almost break even again for a short while. For others, the brutal spiral of fuel poverty and wider social, physical, mental, and economic impacts will have already taken hold. 

What this package represents is thus a sticking plaster. It will provide some relief in the immediate-term, but we have to take this opportunity now to get to work on the things that will help solve the issue more fundamentally. Occasionally paying people in desperate, long-term need is nowhere near enough, and the current timeline of the Energy Security Strategy will do nothing to help people any time soon. Without far more urgent and considerable action across the energy system (and beyond), we will simply find ourselves in this position again in 6 or 12 months’ time. Millions can’t afford for that to happen. 

From an energy perspective, we thus need to get to work on three key things. First, a mass campaign of energy efficiency and retrofit, to reduce demand within lowest-income households as a priority. The cheapest and most secure energy is the energy we don’t use, after all. Regen has been building consensus on how national and local governments can work together to get this done at the scale, pace, and with the care required (see more on the project here). Stakeholders agreed that we should implement “energy efficiency zoning”, so we can target those most in-need areas, communities, and households first. By doing this, we can bring down bills for people who desperately need it, improve living conditions, and efficiently support the essential wider decarbonisation effort at the same time. Win-win-win.

Second, there is a need to accelerate a just transition to renewables, to ensure a secure domestic energy supply that is insulated from international shocks and equipped to provide people here with clean, affordable, and reliable energy. Given again how far away delivery of the current Energy Security Strategy is, this has to include a revisiting of the UK position on onshore wind, which we know can be installed quickly with a number of shovel-ready projects in the pipeline.  

Third and more fundamentally, attention must be paid to social justice in wider energy policy planning and the bigger transition, to ensure that those groups currently at the sharp end of the energy crisis are not just not left behind, but are considered centrally and can benefit directly in the process. With this combination of measures, we can both help people struggling today and reduce our reliance on volatile gas altogether, laying the foundation for a cleaner, more secure, and fairer energy system that works for people and planet alike. 

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