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Energy bills are set to fall but UK families have already lost £72bn to 'staggering' prices

Do you still feel worse off in spite of energy bills falling? It's no surprise. The additional spend by households on energy over the last three years totals more than £72bn, according to the End Fuel Poverty Coaltion

energy bills

Millions of people can't afford to pay their energy bills. Image: Pexels

Energy bills are set to fall this summer, but “eye-wateringly high costs” over the last few years mean millions across the UK will still struggle to heat and power their homes.

Ofgem’s new energy price cap is set at £1,568 per year between July and September 2024.

This does not mean people cannot pay more than £1,568 for their gas and electricity annually – it is the average amount a typical household can expect to spend.

This is around £500 less than the cap in July last year, when it was £2,074.

But people are still paying 50% more than they were three years ago for gas and electricity, and bills are expected to increase again in October. It means households are thousands of pounds out of pocket in comparison to where they would have been had prices remained stable.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow energy secretary, said: “Only Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives could look at energy bills still being hundreds of pounds a year higher for families and call it good news.

“This government is totally out of touch with the cost of living crisis families face. The British people know that they are paying the price for 14 years of failed Conservative energy policy.

“If the Tories get back in, Britain will remain vulnerable to dictators like Putin, and family finances will continue to be rocked by sky-high energy bills.”

Labour has promised to cut bills by setting up a new publicly-owned company, Great British Energy, to invest in homegrown clean energy to “boost energy independence and cut bills for good”.

But energy secretary Claire Coutinho has accused Labour of not being “honest about the costs” that their plans for net zero power would involve. She has said the Conservatives would look at making standing charges fairer, helping families find cheaper deals and creating a more competitive market.

Campaigners and charities want the next government to go further to tackle the energy bills crisis and ensure that the most vulnerable people – including those who are elderly, disabled and living in poverty – are protected from sky-high energy costs.

Households have spent around £2,500 more on energy bills since the cost of living crisis started than they would have done had prices remained the same, according to new calculations from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

The additional spend by households on energy over the last three years totals more than £72bn, taking into account the government support schemes set up to help households – including the energy price guarantee and energy rebate which gave households a discount on their bills.

Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said: “Years of staggering energy bills have taken their toll and we now know the true cost of the crisis.

“Customers are £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 cold damp homes and many are experiencing a mental health crisis driven by high bills.  

“The next government will need to act quickly after the election to end energy debt, protect households from the energy market, bring down bills for good, improve housing standards and make Britain a clean energy superpower.”

Over two million households owe over £3bn of household energy debt, according to National Energy Action. Millions still face negative budgets. Even more will struggle to afford to heat and power their homes.

“For millions of households in fuel poverty, there remains a huge gap between current prices and affordable energy bills,” said Adam Scorer, chief executive of National Energy Action.

“Unfortunately, fuel poor households will not enjoy affordable energy through occasional small changes in the price cap. Whoever wins the next election inherits the responsibility to build fuel poverty out of inefficient homes and build greater protection into the regulation of the energy market.”



Vulnerable people have been worst hit by soaring energy costs and are most likely to be facing energy debt as a result of the cost of living crisis.

The average energy debt of disabled households supported by charity Scope is around £1,794.

Disabled people require equipment like wheelchairs, hoists and breathing equipment, as well as heating. They often face high energy bills to power this equipment, which is why so many more disabled people are pushed into debt.

This winter, around 38% of disabled people surveyed said they were not using heating when cold because of the cost of living, compared to 26% of non-disabled adults.

David Southgate, policy manager at disability equalilty charity Scope, said: “This is far from over. Energy prices are still 50% higher than they were three years ago, and are expected to go up again this autumn.

“Life costs a lot more when you’re disabled, and years of eye-wateringly high costs have hit disabled people hardest. Many disabled people have no choice but to use more energy to power vital equipment, or use more heating to stay healthy.

“With the election just weeks away, all parties must commit to fixing our broken energy system and levelling the playing field with discounted bills for disabled people.”

Tom Marsland, policy manager at the national disability charity Sense, added: “Many disabled families are still in financial crisis, and a falling energy cap will bring little relief given the huge costs they face.

“Disabled households are still paying significantly more on their energy bills on average than before the pandemic, especially those who need to power essential equipment such as electric wheelchairs and feeding machines.

“Sense believes the best long-term solution to level the financial playing field would be to introduce a social energy tariff, which would mean families who have no choice but to use more energy are given a discount. Disabled families can’t afford to wait any longer for support.”

Experts have suggested the next government introduce a social tariff, a targeted discount
on energy for qualifying low-income and vulnerable people. It is a safety net for eligible households who might be struggling to afford their bills.

Big Issue is demanding an end to poverty this general election. Will you sign our open letter to party leaders?

Emma Jackson, a spokesperson for Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “Any fall in fuel bills is of course welcome but we have to remember the massive heights they are falling from, and also the wider context of people not being able to keep up with the costs of other essentials like rent and food as well as fuel.”

She claimed that tens of thousands of households across Scotland have significant energy debt that has built up – over £2,300 for the average Scottish citizens advice bureau client last year.

“This debt is having a devastating effect on people. Scottish citizens advice bureaus deal every day with people who just can’t afford to pay all of their bills and what we need to see, as well as further cuts in energy bills, is action to make energy much more affordable and stable. So we reinforce our calls for a social tariff for consumers on low incomes,” Jackson said.

While people struggle to afford to pay their bills, energy providers are raking in billions of pounds in profits.

They are also are sitting on £3bn of people’s money, with 16 million households in credit, according to research by Uswitch. On average, homes have £210 left with their supplier.

Campaign group Warm This Winter, alongside 38 Degrees and the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, is calling on people to claim that money back.

Warm This Winter spokesperson Fiona Waters said: “People are simply fed up with being ripped off and used as cash machines by the energy industry that week after week announces billions in profits. People want to see investment in a fairer system, especially during these times of global uncertainty when there could easily be another worldwide energy price shock.

“That’s why thousands have joined our Big Energy Credit Claim Back protest and political parties should listen. Voters want to see our broken energy system mended with a shift to homegrown renewable energy and a proper insulation scheme which will both reduce bills and increase energy security by freeing us from volatile global gas prices.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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