Public back cuts in energy bills for vulnerable households

Close up photo of residential natural gas meter dial showing amount of consumption.
June 12, 2024
Ahead of general election, new research shows voters support a social tariff for energy.

Voters have given their backing to the next Government radically altering the support available to households with their energy bills.

New polling by Opinium for the Warm This Winter campaign has revealed that 57% of the public back a social tariff, which is designed to offer cheaper energy to vulnerable households.

While 32% were neutral or didn’t know if they backed it or not, just 11% of the public opposed the proposals.

A social tariff is a discounted energy bill for people in greatest need, such as those people that have low incomes and are elderly, have young children or rely on energy for medical needs.

The cross-party House of Commons Energy Security and Net Zero Committee of MPs recommended last year that this be introduced along with other reforms to help vulnerable households stay warm each winter.

Voters of all parties backed the plans with 68% of 2019 Labour voters, 60% of 2019 Lib Dems and 54% of 2019 Conservative voters supporting a social tariff. The policy is most popular in Scotland (61%) and even in London more than half back the proposals (51%).

When it comes to paying for the policy, a quarter of voters believed that it should be fully funded through the energy industry (producers, networks and suppliers). A similar number backed a mix of Government funding and energy industry contributions.

There was less support for other proposals, such as contributions via energy bills or paying solely for the policy through general taxation.

The updated energy industry profits tracker shows that over £427bn in profits have been generated by firms since the start of the energy bills crisis, up £7bn since the last update in April 2024. An estimated £1,100 per household in profit has been generated by network operators and transmission firms alone. [2]

Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition commented:

“Protecting vulnerable consumers from energy prices that remain way above 2021 levels is a popular and easy to implement policy that the next Government must prioritise.

“The public would support this being paid for by the whole energy industry. Producers, transmission firms, network operators, market traders, suppliers and their supply chains could all chip in through their profits to make this happen.”

Warm This Winter spokesperson Fiona Waters said: 

“Energy bills will go up again in October and years of staggering prices have taken their toll. 

“We now know the true cost of the crisis which will be with us for the foreseeable future. Customers are already £2,500 out of pocket because of Britain’s broken energy system, people are turning to loan sharks to pay their energy bills, millions of people are living in energy debt, in cold damp homes and many are experiencing a mental health crisis driven by high bills.  

“This is why we need the next Government to act quickly after the election to end energy debt, protect households from the volatile global energy market, bring down bills for good, improve housing standards and make Britain a clean energy superpower.”

On energy debt, campaigners have also called for a universal, consistent, nationwide, debt matching programme funded by the £1.3bn customers are paying through bills for energy debt costs this year. 

Experts have also recommended a ban on energy firms from selling on debt to debt collectors, better regulation of energy debt with energy debt and debt collection agencies used by energy firms to be subject to Financial Conduct Authority rules and more training for energy firms’ staff in recognising illegal money lending.

Dan Scorer, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Mencap said:

"People with a learning disability often use more energy for essential mobility, health and sensory needs.  

“Too many are being left in fuel poverty: nearly 40% of people who responded to a Mencap survey said they had kept their heating off despite being cold. Over a quarter said they avoided switching lights on to save money.

“Whoever forms the next government must immediately tackle the energy affordability crisis by introducing an energy social tariff so people with a learning disability can live happy and healthy lives.”

Graham Easterlow, CEO of East Durham Trust, said: 

“We have seen a 90% rise in household debt involving energy bills. Our debt centre used to write off a majority of unsecured debt made up of credit cards, loans and store cards, now we are seeing household bills of thousands of pounds being written off through debt relief orders.”

More than 41,000 members of the public have also signed a 38 Degrees petition, demanding a social energy tariff for vulnerable people, further demonstrating public support for the measure.  Matthew McGregor, CEO at 38 Degrees, said: 

“No one should be left in the cold for yet another winter - whether it’s struggling families, people surviving on limited pensions or those with disabilities who may need extra power.

“Voters want to see the burden of enormous energy bills lifted off the shoulders of those struggling the most, with support funded by the huge profits the energy industry is raking in.”

Maria Carvalho, Campaigner at health charity Medact added: 

“Homes are the foundation of good health and no one should be left to freeze in their own home. Health workers are working tirelessly but can only plaster over the impacts of cold homes, from respiratory conditions to child development. At the same time the crisis of cold homes costs the NHS more than 2.5 billion a year. 

“Despite health workers' best efforts, the effects of treatment can't last if patients go straight back to a cold home where they are struggling to cover their sky high bills. The solution to this public health crisis lies in energy reforms like a social tariff which would mean that no one is cut off from their basic right to energy."


[1] Opinium conducted an online survey of 2,185 nationally and politically representative UK adults between 29th and 31st May 2024

[2] Data as at 6 June 2024. Researchers examined the declared profits of the 20 firms the End Fuel Poverty Coalition is most asked to comment on. This sample of the industry ranges from energy producers (such as Equinor and Shell) through to the firms that control our energy grid (such as National Grid, UK Power Networks and Cadent) as well as suppliers (such as British Gas). It does not include supply chains nor market trading firms.

Energy giants have pocketed just under £427 billion in profits since the energy crisis started according to a new analysis of company reports. Over £34 billion of these profits (the equivalent of over £1,153 per household) are thought to be made by the firms and business units responsible for electricity and gas transmission and distribution. These are the “network costs” consumers pay for maintaining the pipes and wires of the energy system and are usually paid for through standing charges on energy bills. Standing charges have risen 147% in recent years for electricity and 15% for gas.

The last update was on 1 April 2024 which showed industry profits of £420bn with £30bn from networks and transmission.

The data was compiled by freelance business journalist David Craik. David’s experience has included writing business and city news and features for national newspapers and magazines such as The Daily Mirror, Sunday Times, Wall Street Journal, Scotsman and Daily Express. Much of his content focuses on company financial results and reports in the energy sector and on personal finance issues including wealth management, property, investing and managing household budgets and bills. If any firm wishes to correct the records, please email