Take big five energy companies into public ownership, Green Party demands
The Green Party of England and Wales has issued its proposals for tackling the ongoing energy crisis. With bills set to rise to as much as £4,200 for the average household in January 2023 and private energy providers raking in massive profits, the party has called for the big five energy companies to be brought into public ownership.
The Greens say this would enable the price of energy to be returned to the level of the Ofgem price cap that was set in October 2021. In doing so, the party says it would save people over £2,000 on their energy bills.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimates it would cost £2.8bn to bring the big five energy retail companies into public ownership – less than what the government has already spent bailing out failed energy companies at the end of 2021.
The Greens say they would finance taking the firms into public hands, and pay to reset the price cap to the October 2021 level by closing the loopholes in the government’s so-called windfall tax on oil and gas companies. Currently, the government’s windfall tax will give a 90 per cent tax relief to oil and gas firms for every pound of investment they make – essentially a tax break for energy companies to put more money into fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure. The Green Party also says it would use increased VAT receipts as a result of higher prices on goods across the rest of the economy.
Announcing the policy, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said, “We are seeing nationwide anxiety about the prospect of unpayable energy bills this winter. Other parties have only offered to fix energy prices at current levels, but we know these are already unaffordable. We would return energy prices to an affordable level. This experiment with an energy supply market has failed. Only the government can intervene at the scale required to avoid a catastrophe this winter.”
Fixing the price of energy will put huge stress on energy supply companies, which is why we propose bringing the largest into public ownership and offering subsidies to smaller suppliers, especially the renewable energy specialists who have done so much to innovate in recent years.
By bringing the big five energy retail companies into public ownership, setting the price of energy at an affordable rate and absorbing the global price rises, the government could make sure everybody can afford to get through this cost of living crisis.
At the same time, it will mean this public service will be able to be run in the public interest, instead of in the interest of profit making.
In addition to the call for public ownership of energy, the Green Party has renewed its call for a major home insulation programme – arguing that reducing energy demand by increasing energy efficiency is the most important step the government can take to ensure the UK’s long-term energy security.
Denyer said, “Everyone needs to use energy to survive, for basic needs like cooking and keeping warm. However, tackling the climate crisis requires that we improve our energy efficiency in this country.”
The Greens’ proposals have been welcomed by anti-privatisation group We Own It. The group’s Director Cat Hobbs told Bright Green, “It’s absolutely brilliant that the Green Party is calling for public ownership of the Big Five. This is the scale of response we need to see from politicians in this crisis. TUC research shows it’s extremely affordable to buy back the Big Five – the government is already planning to spend a similar amount propping up Bulb.”
Earlier this week, the Labour leader Keir Starmer announced his proposals to address the crisis. He called for the forthcoming increases in the energy price cap to be scrapped, financed through expanding the windfall tax on oil and gas giants. However, he explicitly ruled out taking the supply companies into public hands.
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