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Death Threat: Ministers Under Increasing Pressure To Abandon Green Energy Targets

The Government is under increasing pressure to abandon green energy targets amid warnings that fuel surcharges will put the lives of the most vulnerable at risk as they struggle to pay bills.

One in four households will struggle to keep warm this winter because of costlier gas and electricity and the impact of green taxes, figures out today show.

More than five million households in England alone are living in fuel poverty as incomes stagnate and energy bills soar. It is feared many may have to choose between food and energy in a ‘heat or eat’ dilemma.

Fuel poverty is where a family spends more than 10 per cent of its income on energy.

Ministers are under increasing pressure to abandon green energy targets amid warnings that fuel surcharges will put the lives of the most vulnerable at risk as they struggle to pay bills.

The Government faces calls to tear up or delay plans to force through a £200billion shift to wind turbines, wave power and new nuclear power stations.

Previous official projections had forecast that 4.1million households would be in fuel poverty this year, but calculations following rises in energy prices over the summer have shown that a million more will be hit.

The figures provided to Consumer Focus are based on actual bills after the rises.

William Baker, of the statutory consumer body, said: ‘With over five million households currently in fuel poverty, it is difficult to see how the Government is going to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016, as required by the Warm Homes and Conservation Act 2000.

‘We therefore urge the Government to use the proceeds from new carbon taxes to provide vital funds to support a national energy efficiency programme.’

All six of the big energy suppliers pushed up their prices with the biggest, British Gas, putting up its gas and electricity prices by 18 per cent and 16 per cent.

The government-appointed Fuel Poverty Advisory Group last night urged ministers to act. Chairman Derek Lickorish said that the average family’s dual fuel bill has doubled since 2003 and is now more than £1,300.

‘The Government needs to reflect on what’s happening to ordinary people. It has not been taking this seriously enough,’ he said.

The figures show the severity of the problems in parts of the country with more than 40 per cent of households in Wales in fuel poverty. The North East and West Midlands have fuel poverty levels of more than 30 per cent.

Around 2.5million people are now in debt to their energy supplier, with the average gas bill arrears now £320.

A Government-commissioned study earlier this year warned that more than 2,700 people are dying each year in England and Wales because they cannot afford to keep their homes warm.

The study by social policy expert Professor John Hills, of the London School of Economics, concluded that green taxes on household power bills have a disproportionate impact on poorer homes.

Energy companies meanwhile are under pressure to cut prices following significant falls in the wholesale cost of fuel.

Unusually warm weather and the lack of demand from industrial customers as the economy falters have created a glut of cheap power. The fall in wholesale prices kicked in at the end of August – exactly the time that price rises began.

Experts at independent industry analysts ICIS Heren said: ‘UK energy markets are in freefall as the eurozone teeters on the brink of recession.

‘UK wholesale energy prices plummeted to 12-month lows this week, finally cancelling out increases earlier in the year that caused energy companies to raise household prices.’

Daily Mail, 2 December 2011