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Opinion

‘The energy crisis did not happen overnight and could have been avoided’

15 Nov 2023 7 minute read
Photo by Katrina_S from Pixabay

Bethan Sayed – Warm this Winter Wales Campaign Coordinator

“My situation this year, like any other year, is to look forward to a cold, damp house. I am wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags, because for years the council have refused to replace my noisy, faulty boiler which at the time was 20 years old. I ran up standing charge debt because I didn’t use the boiler and gas hob – now I am unable to clear the debt.

“When I put money on the meter, it just gets swallowed up with the price hike and standing charge debt. Although I work full time, I have been forced to live without gas for many years. I have heaters and I shut myself off in a room and just heat that. I cannot afford to downsize because of the rent increases. I suffer mental and physical health issues. It is hard to survive everyday and I take nothing for granted. Things need to change.”

These are the words of Viv, from south Wales. Sadly Viv isn’t alone in having to face the winter in a cold, damp home. You would think that in 21st Century Wales both the Welsh and UK Governments could ensure that people didn’t die from living in cold homes.

But there were almost 300 excess winter deaths caused by cold homes in Wales last year – that’s 300 too many.

I’ve travelled around warm spaces and food banks in south Wales in my role as Warm this Winter Campaign Coordinator to collect people’s voices on the cost of living crisis. It’s a campaign that has brought together a network of people and organisations from across the environmental and poverty sectors to push the Welsh and UK Governments to take immediate and long-term action on the cost-of-living crisis and the underlying problems with our broken energy system.

And everyone is telling me the same thing;

“I only have one meal a day. That’s all I can afford.”

“If my benefits don’t come through on time, I have no money. So I have no choice but to go to a food bank.”

“I’m living in a really damp house. My landlord has taken 15 years to fix it. I don’t want to speak on camera because he’ll throw me out if I say anything publicly.”

“I keep an eye on when I heat my house and what I use, but even then I am still struggling due to the high standing charges. It’s scandalous that the energy companies make so much profit when I can’t even afford to pay my bills.”

When I spoke to Mandy, who is the head of a food bank in Pontypridd, she told me she would prefer it if food banks did not have to exist. Like most of us, she wants people to be equal and be comfortable in their lives.

We have come to normalise people being desperate enough for food that they have to access a food bank, and now we have seen the creation of warm hubs or warm spaces in our communities, due to the rising cost in energy in the last few years.

People are seeking a space to shelter from the harsh Welsh weather in a place where they can chat and put aside their daily troubles for a while. Sometimes it can feel futile to work in this space, especially when you see the UK Government’s attack on the homeless and the vulnerable.

The comments about homelessness being a “lifestyle choice” from the recently sacked Suella Braverman is just the tip of the iceberg in a series of events that have led to people’s lives being devalued.

The forced prepayment meter scandal involving some of the largest energy companies, the lack of emergency support for people this winter, the delaying of the new phase of the Welsh Government’s Warm Homes programme that could see many more people able to insulate their homes effectively, demonising people who are on benefits generally – the list goes on.

But there are ways in which we can campaign and be active to change our futures. We are in the grip of several crises – the cost-of-living crisis, the energy crisis, and the climate and nature emergencies. These issues are all connected and intertwined. They have shared causes and solutions.

Emergency support is needed for the most vulnerable. Beyond that, the best solutions for a genuine pathway out of the cost-of-living crisis are also key steps to addressing energy security and the climate crisis – like a rapid scale up of energy efficiency and rolling out community energy all over Wales.

The energy crisis did not happen overnight and could have been avoided if action on energy efficiency and renewables had been taken decades ago. Unless we take urgent and informed action now, short term or false solutions risk locking us into the worsening impacts of climate change and future energy crises.

That is why we have been campaigning with UK partners to introduce an emergency tariff for vulnerable people this winter so they can be supported in the here and now. That is why we are pushing for a longer term introduction of a social tariff, and a ban on the forced installation of prepayment meters.

We want communities to work together to implement real change. That is why we are working with community renewable energy providers to help them power up their own energy creating schemes, so that their community centres and GP surgeries can run on renewable energy, and any profits can then go back into helping that area directly. That is why we want to see a genuine windfall tax on big oil and gas companies. Polluters must pay. They must take responsibility.

So to that end, we are holding a day of protest on Saturday (November 18) in Cardiff as part of a nationwide Warm Homes campaign co-ordinated by Friends of the Earth. We are asking for people to join us and protest outside the UK Government offices in Cardiff Central square starting from 11 am. We have created cardboard cutout silhouettes that have been painted black and will place them around the outside of the building, alongside ‘Warm Homes for All’ banners.

Silouettes

Attached to the silhouettes will be notes from across Wales from people who attend community hubs as to what they feel are the solutions, and what needs to be changed. These have all been taken from my visits to seek to engage with people about the effect of the cost of living on them.

We will be encouraging people who attend to talk to one another and add their own voices to the notes by pegging their words to the silhouettes. The silhouettes are there to represent the 300 people in Wales who died last winter due to living in cold, leaky homes.

So if you, like me, want a way to direct your anger, your frustrations and also your hopes and ideas for a stronger and more vibrant future, join us on Saturday.

Here are words to a song that my father, poet Mike Jenkins, wrote to support our action this weekend.

Turn it Up!

It’s heat or eat
The meter lights
Like sirens blaring

I’m staring at bills
Rising like the river –
Always getting closer

Turn it up
Turn it up
Anger is burning

See the sun shining
See the winds blowing –
Energy all around

See the waves crashing
See the streams flowing –
Energy for everyone

Turn it up
Turn it up
Anger is blazing

It’s eat or heat
I retreat to my bed –
Escape the cold and damp

No dam for my tears
No reservoir to drown
My troubled sleep

Turn it up
Turn it up
Anger is firing

It will not destroy
Like the forests burning –
But light up every room.


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saveenergy
saveenergy
6 months ago

“The energy crisis did not happen overnight” Absolutely !! it’s the culmination of years of successive governments making bad decisions about things they know nothing about. ~37% (due to rise to 42% by 2025) of our energy bill are ‘green levies/taxes’ that are given as subsidies to ‘Renewable energy’ companys (mainly from China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Spain. Ørsted, the Danish renewable energy giant, is understood to be in talks with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, about securing more generous subsidy arrangements for its Hornsea 3 wind farm project. Subsidies for Hornsea 3 were agreed with the… Read more »

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
6 months ago
Reply to  saveenergy

So what do you suggest as an alternative? Continued reliance on fossil fuels?

By the way, there’s no such thing as a ‘clean burn coal station’ (although I agree with you about the smart meters).

saveenergy
saveenergy
5 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

“So what do you suggest as an alternative?”

SMRs for reliable base load + CCGT for fast ramping.

clean burn coal stations started in the 1970s & continually improved
look at the graph on pg 2
https://www.energy.gov/fecm/articles/clean-coal-technology-demonstration-program

saveenergy
saveenergy
5 months ago
Reply to  saveenergy

More wind news –
The German government has decided to grant a EUR-7.5-billion (USD 8.04bn) guarantee to Siemens Energy AG amid problems in its wind business that led to the company reporting a net annual loss of EUR 4.59 billion today.
EUR-7.5-billion of other peoples money, for an unreliable intermittent technology that only produces 32% of it’s installed capacity.

& More on subsidies –
In 2021 Drax received £893m – about £2.4m a day – in UK government green energy subsidies ( from the levies on our bills ) … for polluting the atmosphere; thats why our bills are high.

saveenergy
saveenergy
5 months ago

More from the “wind is the cheapest form of energy” scam … 16/11/23 The UK government has increased the strike price caps by 66% for the upcoming Contracts for Different round and committed to an offshore wind-only pot. At today’s levels they work out at about £105/MWh. But by the time any new projects are commissioned, indexation will probably have pushed the figure up to £130/MWh. Floating wind projects are even more horrendously prices at around £250/MWh at today’s prices. This decision will add about £8 billion a year to energy bills (an extra £124/person/yr) compared to the previous auction… Read more »

Elen Wade
Elen Wade
5 months ago
Reply to  saveenergy

Excellent post, and very surprised that the moderators have allowed it. The impact of this ruinous policy has yet to really show itself, unfortunately.

saveenergy
saveenergy
5 months ago

Sorry forgot to show increases to the other ‘Ruinable’ industry’s …
The government is also increasing maximum bid prices for other technologies, offering certainty for developers, and keeping the UK at the cutting edge of all renewables. These include: 

  • geothermal by 32% – from £119/MWh to £157/MWh
  • solar by 30% – from £47/MWh to £61/MWh 
  • tidal by 29% – from £202/MWh to £261/MWh3

All to be added to our bills

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/boost-for-offshore-wind-as-government-raises-maximum-prices-in-renewable-energy-auction

saveenergy
saveenergy
5 months ago

Lets get to ‘Net Nut Zero’ by powering UK with ‘Clean Renewables’ …

last update 2023-11-16 13:50:00 GMT from Gridwatch

  • Wind 3%
  • Solar 3%
  • Coal 4%
  • Nuclear 8%
  • Gas 56%
  • Imports 16%

Fairly typical results for Autumn/Winter.

saveenergy
saveenergy
5 months ago
Reply to  saveenergy

Tonight’s update 2023-11-16 21:00:00 GMT from Gridwatch

% of demand

  • Wind 4%
  • Solar 0%
  • Coal 4%
  • Nuclear 9%
  • Gas 59%
  • Imports 13%

Do anybody really think you can power the UK just with ‘Renewables’, remember demand is set to rise ~5x when you add all electric transport & heating.

saveenergy
saveenergy
5 months ago
Reply to  saveenergy

Another update 2023-11-17 17:00:00 GMT from Gridwatch

% of demand

  • Wind 2%
  • Solar 0%
  • Coal 4%
  • Nuclear 8%
  • Gas 55%
  • Imports 14%

Note how well the ‘Renewables’ are doing !!

Bethan
Bethan
5 months ago
Reply to  saveenergy

Sorry, I missed that. What’s your stance on renewable energy?
Please please don’t answer that. I’m not being serious. You’re obviously a ShellBot or some other kind of paid fossil lobbiest, so there’s no point in us having a conversation.
*Nation.cymru mods* Don’t you have anyone moderating spam? Eight comments from the same person in succession is excessive by netiquette standards and a big red flag.

In response to the original article, good for you. If I was in Cardiff on the 18th I would join you.

TomTom82
TomTom82
5 months ago

I have worked in renewables, wind generation specifically. Our product was superior to Dutch and Spanish alternatives (Vestas and Gamesa) but the 0 tariffs meant companies sought the cheaper, less efficient alternatives. Either way, wind and renewables can’t compare with fossil and nuclear for energy output. Hydro is the closest, the Dinorwig power station really is amazing, and 40 years old. Here’s something most people don’t know, the tories love renewables. Most of their backers own the land where the windmills, solar farms are located. Let’s not forget the crown owns the sea bed where the costal turbines are located.… Read more »

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