We only have energy security when we own it

Can you afford to pay triple last year’s prices for energy? The average household bill will now be £3,549 a year. For three months. Then it will rise again in November.

I’m sure the great and the good will tell us to turn down our thermostats and wear a jumper. I bet you never thought of that! But you still need to boil your kettle and cook your tea. You still need to shower and turn on your washing machine. If there’s a baby in the house, you need to keep it warm. If you’ve got a chronic chest condition, you need the air warm and dry, not cold and damp.

And if you’re working from home this winter, will your employer compensate you for your energy bills? Will we get a tax break for subsidising the economy from our home-offices?

It’s worse for businesses. The price cap only applies to domestic customers. Yesterday I visited a company we’ve helped win a multi-million pound new contract, creating a dozen new jobs. Their energy bill will rise from £900,000 to £3.5 million. An academy trust I heard about will see their bill rise from £1 million to £5 million. Schools, hospitals, Metro trains, the whole fabric of our society is being price gouged. 350% increases on average.

The calls for people to huddle in libraries to keep warm this winter is both Dickensian and farcical. Thanks to austerity, my local library is now a community enterprise, run mostly by volunteers. There’s two swimming pools run as social enterprises, how will they cope with rising energy prices? They did everything right – communities stepped up to provide services that should have been funded from taxes, and now they’re getting hammered again.

Why does electricity need to jump from 28p kW/h to 52p per kW/h? Only 37% is generated from fossil fuels. The wind turning the wind turbines doesn’t cost any more. Running the EDF owned nuclear plants is no more expensive. The answer is their contracts allow them to.

This is an emergency. We saw in Covid that we can act when we need to. Exceptional times warrant exceptional measures. Not only will we see families fall into unpayable arrears, we’ll see businesses fold and people out of work, we’ll see our public services paying their budgets to energy firms, and social enterprises will close their doors just when vulnerable people most need them.

Long term solutions are needed. Massive investment in offshore wind to electrify Britain and provide abundant cheap energy. Massive insulation of homes. It saves us a fortune. All this is in Labour’s energy security plan. I’d like to see us go further.

Right now we need an emergency budget. But we do not need to pay £100s of billions to energy suppliers.

Nationalise the energy supply companies. Nationalise the distribution networks. Nationalise the wholesale suppliers and electricity generators. And do it properly, with citizens’ panels scrutinising them, with local authorities advising regulators, and workers from those industries on the board. We can only have energy security when we own it.

Enough is enough.