We are now two years into the energy crisis that has left bills double what they were, and millions of people unable to afford to heat or power their homes. Meanwhile, the Government’s flagship Energy Bill has been moving through Parliament, representing a real chance to secure a warmer winter for households across the UK.
The bill is in its final stages: MPs have had the chance to debate and vote on amendments in the House of Commons, and Peers have done the same in the Lords. Now it will “ping pong” between the two until agreement on the final content of the bill is reached. You can read more about the parliamentary process here.
The government missed a huge opportunity to use this bill to fix our broken energy system. Despite knowing that bills would stay at unaffordable levels for millions of households this winter, the government has not taken the necessary steps to avert another crisis or done anything to lower our energy bills for good.
That means getting us off expensive gas by committing to properly insulating homes and shifting to renewable energy, which is now cheaper than gas and which this country is lucky enough to have in abundance.
But it could have been a lot worse - we’ve seen some big improvements to the original bill, thanks to some incredible work from partners and supporters across the Warm This Winter coalition. Here are some wins that we think are worth celebrating.
Ofgem has been a key figure throughout the energy crisis as the government regulator for the power market in the UK, tasked with protecting the interests of existing and future gas and electricity consumers. Whilst it has always had a duty to consider a reduction in greenhouse gases in the supply of gas and electricity, the bill now updates Ofgem’s duties to make specific reference to net zero targets and carbon budgets as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. In practice this means that Ofgem is now required to consider how it can assist the government to meet the UK’s net zero targets as part of its everyday decisions. With crucial decisions on the future of the energy grid ahead, this mandate signals that protecting consumers and lowering emissions go hand-in-hand - and that means reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.
An amendment from Grant Shapps, previous Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, saw the government scrap the controversial ‘hydrogen levy’. This levy would charge households for hydrogen production, potentially adding a further £120 charge on top of record energy bills. Instead, from 2025 it will be levied on the gas shipping industry. There are some concerns this would allow shippers to pass the cost on to consumers by increasing their prices, but consultation remains on the final design of this scheme with the government indicating ‘fairness’ would be central. We also really shifted the dial in making sure that hydrogen is not seen as a silver bullet for the future of how the UK heats its homes, schools, and businesses.
Current planning restrictions in England have seen a near total ban on the establishment of new onshore wind - even though power from onshore wind costs at least four times less than from gas power plants, and it can be brought online much more quickly. The Energy Bill has now removed some restrictions that previously allowed a single objection to block the development of new projects. It did not go far enough, but it is a small step forward that would not have been taken without the work of the coalition.
While we still have a long way to go, these wins are proof of what we can achieve together. It would also not be possible without the sheer number of MPs and Peers who turned out to shape the Bill into something that works for both people and planet. Parliamentarians from across party lines rallied around the energy crisis and have taken a big step forward for energy security. In every debate, off the back of our efforts, MPs and Peers stood up to speak out for a real, long-term plan to fix the UK’s broken energy system.
As we head into the winter months, and with the autumn statement and Kings’ Speech there is still more to be done to protect vulnerable households. In particular:
To learn more about the Energy Bill click here to see the Government overview.