Soaring energy bills. Millions unable to properly heat their homes. A gaggle of profit-hungry energy giants ripping us off and making billions in profits. A Government unwilling to act to curb their power. It sounds like the plot of a science fiction movie - but this is the state of the UK's energy system in 2011. It's a system which is broken and in need of urgent repair.
After all, no one wants another shock like the one we've just had - energy prices have rocketed by an average of 12% this year alone. Yet as bills are soaring, so are the profits of the Big Six energy companies - household names like British Gas and E.ON. Incredibly, their combined profits were a third higher last year than they were in 2008. These companies supply 99 per cent of households in the UK - so the likelihood is that you're one of them. They control our energy system: how much it costs, who buys it and, most importantly for the UK's future, how it's generated.
The Big Six have plans to invest in a massive new wave of gas-fired power stations - just as the reserves of our gas in the North Sea are dwindling and the price of imported gas is soaring. A new report published by Friends of the Earth today shows UK households could face extra costs of around £300 a year if the Big Six go ahead with this plan and abandon any investment in renewable energy. Our bills are rocketing because they are keeping us hooked on expensive, imported fossil fuels.
There is an alternative - but the Big Six would rather keep the system as it is now, as it suits them pretty well. It's time for politicians to stand up to the big energy companies and make sure we have energy we can all afford. That means breaking their dominance of the market, encouraging smaller, clean energy players to grow and making sure the Government doesn't kill off support for clean British energy providers, who are building projects like solar panels on homes, schools and churches.
There's barely a person in the land that hasn't been hit by obscene energy price rises over the last few months - but now we have a chance to hit back. Friends of the Earth is calling for a public inquiry into the Big Six's power. Radical action is needed, and the time for it is now.
Join us by signing Friends of the Earth's Final Demand petition at www.foe.co.uk/finaldemand