The maximum amount an energy company can charge a customer, also known as the energy price cap, increased by 54% this month.
As a result, millions of people in the UK have witnessed a significant increase in their household bills. And with many Britons are already struggling with the cost of living crisishopes that energy bills will come down by next year have started to fade.
UK energy prices have been rising for months now, mainly due to increased international demand following the end of global COVID-19 restrictions.
Price hikes have forced many people in the UK to choose between ‘heating and eating’ and news of yet another price hike – partly prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine – has only only make things worse.
In February of this year, a report published by Investec bankannounced that household energy bills could reach £3,000 (€3,595) a year in England, Wales and Scotland from October 2022, partly due to the Ukraine crisis.
Will energy prices rise further?
According to the report, the war in Ukraine is also likely to make matters worse for months.
Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and many in Europe are worried about Putin’s reaction to Western sanctions.
If Putin were to cut Europe’s access to Russian gas, wholesale prices would skyrocket. Such a decision would be “devastating” and could “plunge many people into fuel poverty”, says Investec analyst Martin Young.
The situation in the UK before the invasion was not great either, with UK annual inflation hit its highest level in 30 years at 5.4% in December 2021, accompanied by falling real wages and rising food prices. Today, with the rising cost of energy, life for many seems increasingly difficult.
What about energy costs in Europe?
In recent months, the price of energy has also skyrocketed across Europe.
In March, anger mounted in Spain as it was reported that the country’s economy was set to become one of the worst hit on the continent. In response, a “silent revolutionary protest” was staged via social media platforms, with citizens agreeing to turn off the power for ten minutes, at 10 p.m. on March 10.
The protest was successful, with the country’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, later agreeing to provide the Spanish people a package of emergency economic measures. The measures, worth €6 billion in direct aid and tax relief and €10 billion in loans to families and businesses, aim to reduce the economic fallout caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Is the #BigPowerOff coming to Britain?
Inspired by the people of Spain and their activism, some Britons have taken to social media to demand a ‘#BigPowerOff’ to take place in the UK with writer Karen Brady having first launched the plan. For ten minutes on April 10 at 10 p.m., campaigners hope Britons will come together to switch off all electrical appliances.
Described as a “non-partisan protest action”, the 10-minute outage aims to impact shareholders’ energy and profits and demands that special emergency measures be put in place to combat the situation. The protest is silent, can be fought from home and is inclusive for many people, for example people with disabilities. In February 2022, a SCOPE report concluded that people with disabilities are “more than twice as likely to be unable to heat their homes”.
How do energy prices affect people with disabilities?
“I have a lot of electrical devices that I use to help me, mostly due to balance issues. I plan to eat cold food all day to make sure I don’t have to turn on one. of my many cooking appliances,” says Rachael Tomlinson, a former NHS project manager from East Yorkshire.
“In 2018, I was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis and left work shortly after,” says Tomlinson, who is now a disability officer.
Many of those retweeting news about the protest are turned off and fearful of the impact October’s price hike will have on their daily lives. Many fear that the cold will lead to further complications of the disease, as they will not be able to afford any heating.
“We have to make the government understand that people are going to die. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s really true. The messages and comments I receive on TikTok tell a very sad story.
The initial Twitter post has now gained 6,000 retweets in just five days.
“We are facing the worst cost of living crisis since the 1950s and ration books,” adds Tomlinson,
“What we need to do now is gather support. We need you to share our materials [online] that the current crisis has reached its boiling point. It may not affect you now, but I guarantee it will affect someone very close to you.