Think tank: Confronting corporate control of energy will take more than Tory cap


Campaigners warn that Tory measures would leave the public struggling with defective energy system

A SCOTTISH THINK TANK has warned that measures outlined by the Conservatives to deal with soaring energy prices would fall short of changes needed to have a just energy system to the benefit of the people.

The pro-independence Common Weal think tank said that a cap on energy prices, revealed by the Conservative party as its first major policy announcement today (9 May), was weakened by any cap being set by the energy regulator rather than the government, and didn’t address the route problem of high prices – corporate control.

Speaking to CommonSpace, head of policy at Common Weal Ben Wray, said: “A cap on energy prices is at least some government intervention into an energy market rigged against consumers by the big six corporations, although the cap will be set by the regulator not the government which may be a get out for Theresa May if it does not reduce energy bills in practise.

“Under this policy the energy system remains in the hands of the corporations and therefore is operated in their interest, not for people or for sustainability.” Ben Wray Common Weal

“But the real problem with this, as with Ed Miliband’s proposal for a energy freeze in the 2015 General Election, is that the energy system remains in the hands of the corporations and therefore is operated in their interest, not for people or for sustainability. The big six will find other cost savings, like in infrastructure investment, to maintain profit rates. It would be far better if all profits were re-invested into improving infrastructure.”

The policy has been compared to the temporary energy price freeze advocated by Labour leader Ed Miliband before the 2015 General Election.

When the freeze was unveiled in 2013, then Conservative leaders including Prime Minister David Cameron described the policy as “dangerous” and “Marxist”. Though the cap does equal a freeze, the policy announcement and reasons behind it – the UK’s soaring energy prices – are the same. The cap will apply to 17 million families standard variable tariffs. The cap would save families up to £100 per year.

Between 2004 and 2014 average energy bills more than doubled, and have continue to increase since

The answer, Wray said, was a combination of public control and decentralisation: “Energy needs to be in public hands and we need enormous investment in decarbonising and decentralising the grid so that access for community and local authority green energy projects is cheap.”

Read more – Scottish ‘fuel bank’ scheme set to expand as fuel poverty grows

A spokesperson for the campaigning group Global Justice Now (GJN), which monitors the influence of global corporations, agreed that democratic control was the best way to reign in prices.

Jonathan Stevenson said: “This recognition that the government has a role in the broken energy market is welcome, but a tiny cap won’t fit the scale of the problem.

“We need more democratic control of the energy system to meet the twin challenges of clean and affordable energy. That means major changes to break down the power of the ‘big six’ energy giants and support publicly-controlled local energy companies across the country.”

Writing for the Sun, May said the policy would cut prices for around seven in 10 families.

Picture courtesy of Federico Cardoner

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