Energy bills are falling – and MPs are in the dark

Britain’s average energy bill shrank by £6 last year as measures that cut energy waste continued to reduce demand, more than offsetting price rises from the energy companies. But as MPs prepare to bring in a price cap, only a tiny fraction are aware of the true picture.

Just 1% know that both bills and demand are falling, a survey of MPs commissioned by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) from YouGov shows. Nearly two-thirds (63%) believe that both are rising.

The survey shows that nearly three-quarters of MPs agree with a policy of Government providing financial support for home insulation measures such as loft insulation as a way to improve energy efficiency.

The findings come in an ECIU report which shows that the decade-long fall in the average UK domestic energy bill, documented in a report last year by statutory advisers the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), continues. The CCC found that ‘dual fuel’ bills had fallen in real terms by around £115 since the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008. This is mainly because energy use is becoming more efficient and less wasteful, partly due to measures supported by levies on bills.

The ECIU report notes that the trend is obscured by the way that government departments, regulators and companies conventionally report bill changes, which assumes that energy use stays constant. This can inflate the real bill figure by at least 10%

Commenting on the findings, Richard Black, director of ECIU, said that they highlighted the need for clear, accessible evidence to help inform policymakers and other stakeholders.

“It’s not surprising that MPs are unaware of the long-term trend of falling energy bills given the continuing furore over price rises”, he said.

“But even though the Big Six’s tariff hikes are real and do create problems for vulnerable customers, this shouldn’t hide the wider reality that measures to cut energy waste work – reducing energy demand, cutting carbon emissions and driving energy bills downwards.

“As the Committee on Climate Change has observed, though, there is currently a big hole in policymaking on energy efficiency, despite the huge popularity of such measures in the country. So it’s noteworthy that such measures also command widespread support across the House of Commons.”

Seventy-three percent of MPs back Government financial support for measures such as insulation, with only 14% opposed. More than half (55%) believe that all new homes should be built to zero-carbon standards with just 18% opposed, suggesting that the zero carbon homes policy, scrapped in 2015 under the Coalition Government, remains popular.

Commenting, James Heappey, MP for Wells and a member of the ECIU Advisory Board, said: “This is a very welcome finding, and shows once again that government energy policy is delivering ever-increasing value for money.

“But as the polling shows, it’s a good news story of which the vast majority of my colleagues in Parliament are unaware – and that’s something we have to change.

“It’s also really encouraging to find such high support across Parliament for stepping up measures to cut energy waste – something that is also hugely popular in the country.”

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 100 MPs. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17/04/18 and 01/05/18. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the House of Commons.