New research by uSwitch has revealed a crisis of affordability in Britain’s energy costs.
69% of householders have been forced to go without heating at some point this winter in order to keep their energy costs down, and two in ten having to do so regularly.
Over a third have found their quality of life or health decrease as a result of cutting back on their energy use – a 15% increase compared to last year.
What the research found
- Seven in ten households have gone without heating at some point this winter to keep their energy bills in check – almost two in ten (17%) are doing this regularly
- Three quarters of households (74%) have cut down or rationed their energy use this winter because of the increased cost – almost nine in ten (88%) now consider the cost before switching their heating on
- 87% are concerned about their forthcoming winter energy bill and 69% say that it will be less affordable than last year’s
- 88% of people expect the cost of household energy to increase again this year
- Over eight in ten consumers (81%) say that household energy is unaffordable in the UK today
The big energy suppliers raised their prices in 2012 adding hundreds to household energy bills. Previous uSwitch research found that energy prices have risen five times faster than average income:
Energy rationing is likely to disproportionately hit vulnerable homes as temperatures reach sub-zero temperatures, with 44% saying they have gone cold at home this winter due to the high cost of energy.
The research raises concerns that the UK is reaching an affordability ceiling in energy costs.
In 2004, the average household energy bill cost an average of £522. This year that average annual cost has rocketed to £1,352 – a 159% increase leaving nine in ten concerned about recent costs.
Energy suppliers have already warned that rising wholesale gas costs, green energy taxes and infrastructure maintenance are likely to keep pushing up the cost of energy, despite over eight in ten consumers saying that household energy is already unaffordable.
Although 88% of consumers say they expect further price rises research has identified an ‘energy affordability ceiling’ of £1,500 a year beyond which the majority of consumers will start to suffer. A
t this point almost six in ten households would be going without adequate heating and almost four in ten would be forced to turn their heating off entirely.
Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “When it comes to household energy Britain has run slap bang into an affordability crisis – households are going without heating in the depths of winter for fear of running up a large bill.
“This severe level of rationing can have serious consequences – in fact over a third of consumers (35%) say that cutting back on energy is affecting their quality of life or health. This is unacceptable.
“The average household energy bill today is £1,352 a year. Grid upgrade costs and Government policies could see this increase to over £1,400 a year. At £1,500 a year we will see a majority of households going without adequate heating and almost four in ten forced to turn their heating off entirely – we are just a hair’s breadth away.
“With the cost of energy escalating, I would urge consumers to take two simple steps to protect themselves. Firstly, ensure that you are on the cheapest possible tariff.
“There is currently just under £250 a year difference between the cheapest and the most expensive deals on the market and as switching suppliers only takes three to five weeks to take effect, there’s still time to make substantial savings this winter.”
“Secondly, now more than ever is the time to take energy efficiency and home insulation seriously. This is a safe way of cutting the amount of energy you use and those who need help and support with this should look at the Government’s recently launched Green Deal scheme.”
Responding to uSwitch’s press release a spokesperson from the Home Heat Helpline said:
“There is a lot of help out there for any family struggling to pay their energy bills this winter. We would urge anyone with concerns to call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99. It’s a free, impartial and independent service designed to ensure that you get all the help with energy bills that you qualify for.
“Energy companies offer discounts, rebates and help with insulation and other energy efficiency measures to those customers who need it most. Call today to check you’re claiming all you’re entitled to.”
How people are keeping warm this winter instead of putting on the heating
How respondents say they are keeping warm while rationing their energy:
|Dressing in more layers||84%|
|Wrapping up in a blanket while sitting down||55%|
|Using an extra duvet in bed||52%|
|Drinking hot drinks||50%|
|Doing housework/cleaning or some other activity||40%|
|Left the oven door open after cooking||38%|
|Visiting family/friends or public places such as libraries/coffee bars||17%|