During yesterdays Mayors Question Time, l asked the Mayor about fuel poverty. With household incomes tumbling in real terms, it won’t be the council tax nor the Mayor’s annual fare increases for transport which hit family budgets the most (although, they will no doubt cut a pretty hefty blow) but the energy price hikes of up to 18 per cent which will make the biggest dent.
London Councils estimate that 1 in 4 households live in fuel poverty already. Also, a recent article in the Financial Times warned that if energy bills remain on their current path, the average household will be in “fuel poverty” by 2015.
Based on this, l was keen to ask the Mayor what he was doing about fuel poverty in London? The answer I’m afraid was not very much. He spoke about his Re-New scheme. This is something which he introduced in 2009 when the Mayor set a target of greening 200,000 homes by 2012. By Spring 2011 this target plummeted to 55,000, which is just 1.7 per cent of London’s 3.3 million homes. By September 2011 just 10,678 homes were treated. The pace really needs to be stepped up considerably this autumn if the Mayor has any hope of meeting even his downgraded target. Unfortunately, it looks as though Londoners can take cold comfort from the Mayor’s response to me.
At the same time, the big utilitiy companies are under intense political pressure, forcing them to consider radical change in order to restore public trust particularly after Ed Millband’s speech at Labour Party conference pledging to ” break the dominance of the big energy companies”. Yesterday morning, Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) announced that it had changed its electricity pricing policy by auctioning all its power. If SSE can do this, why not EDF, which are the biggest supplier in London and who have done very well out of the GLA? (They are not only an olympic sustainabilty partner, they are also getting the first £200 million contract to remove the pylons in and around Stratford). My suggestion to the Mayor was that he should follow suit and ask EDF to respond to criticism of high bills with a radical shake-up of the way it buys and sells electricity, thus allowing smaller independent companies to enter the market. Will the Mayor listen? Over to him.