THE BLOG
22/10/2013 09:04 BST | Updated 21/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Gas and Greed - The Real Reason Our Energy Bills Are Sky High

The announcement of huge price rises in electricity and gas by British Gas has been widely proclaimed as a PR disaster - its #AskBG stunt failed spectacularly as angry consumers took to twitter to call them out directly on the reasons for the price hikes.

With inflation busting price rises every year, consumers are understandably starting to question the excuses of the 'Big Six' energy companies when they announce new rises, followed by big profit increases. Energy company profits have in fact increased by 74% in two years.

When announcing their latest rise, British Gas did finger the main culprit for bill rises - the global price of energy. However, British Gas, other big six companies, and some of the media, have decided to divert most of the blame for bill hikes and put them at the door of Government environment programmes, or 'green levies'.

Likely, it was Ed Miliband's 20 month price freeze pledge in September that backed the energy giants into a corner, with 'green taxes' seeming an easy scapegoat for price rises. It is certainly an opportune time to bash green measures, with a chorus of increasingly ebullient cheerleaders for all things anti-green, both in our Government, and in some sections of the national press.

The reality is that 62% of the increase in energy bills between 2004 and 2012 has been because of the rocketing global price of gas - this puts an extra £280 a year on energy bills for the average family.

Instead of addressing the root cause of the crisis, British Gas is shamelessly campaigning for the delay and dilution of home insulation schemes that help to reduce energy bills.

To keep our bills low we need a nationwide programme to insulate every heat-leaking home, and for long term affordable energy, we need a switch to renewables. This makes economic sense as once we have the infrastructure, renewable projects pretty much run for free, with price drops that will mean bills are lower than if we stay hooked on fossil fuels in the long-term.

The energy companies' rhetoric is especially brazen when you also consider the stark warning on climate change from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report at the end of September. To anyone, other than seemingly to our government and other vested interests, it is clear that tough action is urgently needed.

Luckily, the public seems not to be buying the spin by the 'Big Six' and the Government. A recent poll by the Mail on Sunday showed that three quarters of the public did not believe the energy company claims that green measures cause steeper bills.

What would force the issue with both energy companies and current and future governments is a crucial decision taking place next week in the House of Lords. The Lords will vote on whether to include a target in the Energy Bill to move the UK to almost entirely carbon-free power by 2030.

The Government blocked the target in November last year, delaying a decision until at least 2016, but the Lords look set to rebel, forcing the target back up the political agenda. Let's all hope they do, as instead of scapegoating green, Governments will be forced to do the right thing for our economy, bill payers and the environment.