Friday 3 February, 2012
By Martin Fagan
Despite recent cuts in the price of energy, millions of Brits endure cold homes in order to keep bills down.
Despite this winter’s unseasonal milder weather, 85% of consumers are still concerned about their winter energy bill, according to new research.
The impact of the 21% hike in energy prices from the end of 2010 has seen the number of people rationing their energy use soar to 83% this winter, while 5.3 million more households have gone cold to keep their winter energy costs down, says independent switching service, uSwitch.com.
At some point this winter, three quarters of households have gone without heating to keep energy costs down - 20% more than last year. As a result, 72% of respondents say they have been cold at home this winter, although 53% agree that this would have been worse without the mild weather.
However, 15% of people say that cutting back on energy usage is affecting their quality of life or health.
While suppliers say that the warmer winter has reduced consumption, uSwitch.com says the reality is that cost is still the biggest driver of energy usage. The main reason people have gone without heating this winter is the high cost of energy (71%) rather than the mild weather (24%), says the website.
“This is about people going cold - the 21% increase in energy prices since the end of 2010 has led to a corresponding 14% increase in the number of people rationing their energy use in the winter,” said Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com.
“With self-rationing now running at 83% of the population, the only saviour has been the exceptionally mild winter we have seen this year. This has allowed many to cut back, turn down or switch off without feeling the full brunt of winter cold. But what happens next year?
“The government needs to act now. Reducing bills by 5% through zero-rating the VAT could take 262,500 households out of fuel poverty and give much-needed help to millions more who will struggle to keep warm.”
uSwitch.com says that, despite the amount of hope the government has pinned on energy efficiency measures, and the 57% of people who say they have already made their homes more energy efficient, “still Britain goes cold”.
Photo by Robert Nyman