Jeremy Hunt: Cut energy use to stop Putin 'blackmail'

1 week ago 20

Woman turning down thermostatImage source, Getty Images

By Becky Morton

BBC political reporter

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said people should cut their energy use to stop the UK being "blackmailed" by people like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Hunt said "in the end everyone is going to have to take responsibility for their energy bills" and consider how to cut their consumption.

The government has extended support with energy bills until April 2024, but at a less generous level than now.

It has set out a "national ambition" to cut energy use by 15% by 2030.

Appearing in front of the Commons Treasury Committee, the chancellor said households could save themselves around £500 in the years to come if they hit that target and people "need to change their behaviour".

In his Autumn Statement last week, Mr Hunt said the government would continue to help households with energy bills but from April the support would be less generous.

It means the annual bill for a typical household will rise to £3,000 in April, up from the current figure of £2,500.

Without government support a typical household would have paid £4,279 from January, regulator Ofgem said.

The most vulnerable households will also get additional cost-of-living payments.

Mr Hunt told MPs on the Treasury Committee: "We will always be there to help poorer households, the way we do that will change.

"But for most people we need you to play your part in reducing our energy dependency."

He added: "We are saying to people that in the end everyone is going to have to take responsibility for their energy bills and they're going to have to think about how they're going to reduce their energy consumption.

"Because it is a national mission to make sure that we can't be blackmailed by people like Putin when they do things that interrupt international energy supplies."

Mr Hunt said the household energy bill support scheme would cost £80bn this year and "possibly around half that next year".

In the long run he warned "we're going to need everyone to help us crack this problem if we're not going to have a huge additional burden on taxpayers".

"That isn't just at a national level but that's for every household," he said.

"We think that the £500 that we're offering to help people save next year, at current gas prices, if people do the 15%, they could save that £500 themselves in the amount they pay in the years that follow.

"So we're trying to help people to help themselves. We're giving them a cushion this year and next. But we do need people to change their behaviour."

But shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said it was "shameful that this government is waiting three years to start a proper home insulation programme".

He said Labour's plan for a publicly owned renewable energy company would "bring down bills once and for all" and "take back control of our energy".

The war in Ukraine has reduced supplies of Russian gas as Western countries seek to phase out Russian imports and Moscow cuts the amount of gas it supplies to Europe.

Although the UK is far less reliant on Russian gas than mainland Europe, it could still suffer knock-on effects from shortfalls in overall supply.

Energy regulator Ofgem has warned of "a significant risk" of gas shortages this winter due to the war in Ukraine.

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