High energy bills blamed on company profits, Russia and growing global demand

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People are blaming high energy bills on energy company profiteering, the Russian government cutting supplies, and a growing demand for gas globally, a survey suggested.

Just 13% of those quizzed thought green levies and taxes were among the factors most to blame for high energy bills, polling for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) revealed.

That compares with more than a third (34%) who pointed the finger at profiteering by energy companies as one of the main factors behind rising bills, the survey of more than 2,000 people by Opinium Research found.

Some 29% thought the Russian government reducing the supply of gas to Europe was among the factors most to blame, while almost as many thought growing demand for gas around the world (28%) was a key issue.

Just one in eight (13%) thought the best short-term solution to the issue was removing the green levies on bills which fund renewable energy, insulation, and low-income support.

The most popular option for tackling high bills was cutting the rate of VAT on energy, which was backed by nearly a quarter (24%), and a windfall tax on large energy companies, which nearly a fifth (19%) supported.

When it came to long-term solutions, the most popular was decreasing dependence on gas and moving to more use of renewable energy, with more than a third of people (36%) backing that move.

Some 15% thought the best thing was to improve home insulation rates, while just nine percent backed more drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea, eight percent supported fracking, and five percent wanted to open more coal mines to expand coal energy.

High energy bills have prompted calls in some quarters for cuts to green levies, and questions about whether targets to cut greenhouse gases to zero overall – known as “net zero” – by 2050 is affordable.

But the poll showed nearly three-quarters (73%) of people supported the climate goal and only 14% opposed it.

Less than a third (29%) thought “we can’t afford” policies to address climate change, but more than half (54%) thought “we can’t afford not to” implement measures to tackle the problem.

A majority of people supported zero-interest loans for home insulation, government grants of £5,000 to replace boilers, grants of up to £2,500 for electric vehicles, ending sales of new petrol and diesel cars, and phasing out gas boilers in favour of heat pumps.

Responding to the findings, Tory MP Chris Skidmore said: “Whilst we need government support for struggling households now, we also need a long-term solutions which protect UK bill payers from future price spikes driven by international volatility, including Russian interference.

“The simple answer is for us to use less gas.”

Mr Skidmore said more support is needed for schemes to make homes more energy efficient, while more also needs to be done to boost British renewables.

Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the ECIU, said: “The public’s finger is clearly on the pulse, correctly identifying Russian interference and global gas demand as causes of the current gas crisis, while also spotting that gas companies’ profits are rising in line with gas prices.

“They understand that gas bought in the UK is part of an international market, the price of which is driven by international forces.”

He added: “Net zero measures such as insulation and boosting British renewables are saving people money during this gas crisis.”

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