Vladimir Putin wants to punish Britain and Europe for standing with Ukraine. The Kremlin is squeezing the continent’s gas supply to send energy prices into the stratosphere. They hope to break our resolve so we’ll stop arming Ukraine - but we can beat him at his own game by building renewables and insulating our homes.
The UK imports little gas and oil from Russia. But we are part of the European gas market, regularly trading supplies with our neighbours like Norway, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
And Europe’s market is hooked on the Kremlin supplies, importing 40 per cent of its gas and 30 per cent of its oil from Russia before the invasion. As Russia cuts supplies and European nations look elsewhere to fill the gap, energy costs in Europe go through the roof, sending UK prices rocketing too.
Because Putin is weaponising gas, our energy price cap is expected to soar to almost £3,600 in October and over £4,200 in January. It’s an unaffordable bill for millions of households and drives inflation across the economy, making everybody poorer.
In the very worst-case scenario, Putin’s energy war could cause blackouts in Britain and force us to ration energy for industry and households. The economic damage would be enormous.
Maximising our domestic oil and gas supply helps our energy security, but it will not budge prices. We can’t extract enough to be energy independent to end our reliance on the European market controlled by Putin. As long as we rely on oil and gas, Putin will set British energy prices because of Russia’s energy supremacy.
But Putin cannot control British renewables. We can loosen his grip by building wind and solar power - and new nuclear reactors - to end our reliance on fossil fuels. Renewables were already four times more affordable than electricity generated by gas before the crisis, and the costs continue to drop.
We’ve already hugely expanded British renewables to generate 43 per cent of our electricity - up from just 7 per cent in 2010. The government’s new energy security strategy will accelerate our transition to clean energy to lower bills - building enough solar and wind power to power 12 million British homes by 2027.
But to combat the energy crisis this winter, we need to waste less gas to beat Putin at his own game. The less energy we squander, the lower our bills and the more supplies we have to keep the lights on and our homes warm. We can all help achieve this, whether it is you, your energy firm or the government.
If you can afford insulation, now is the time to upgrade your home to cut bills and save energy. Thanks to the government’s VAT cut on energy efficiency measures, the cost of insulating your home’s loft or cavity walls has fallen by £160 and £190, respectively.
This winter, installing loft insulation could cut your energy bills by almost £500 if you live in a terraced home. If you lived in a semi-detached house, cavity wall insulation could cut your bills by over £600. And if you live in a detached house investing in either measure could cut your bills by over £1,000.
Energy firms can help people too. Your supplier should contact and help you with energy efficiency advice to cut energy waste and your bills. Simple fixes like setting a gas boiler’s flow temperature to the correct setting - avoiding unnecessarily scalding settings - can still keep you warm but cut your bills by up to 8 per cent.
For those who can’t afford insulation, the next prime minister should introduce an ambitious but deliverable insulation plan to quickly lower bills. On top of additional financial support, moving green levies off energy bills or cutting VAT on energy, they should bolster successful insulation schemes, like the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
Since 2013, ECO has improved 2.4 million homes saving £17.4 billion in lifetime energy bills. But proposals by the Conservative Environment Network show that extending the scheme to 2030 and investing an additional £1 billion a year would enable energy firms to insulate half a million more homes this winter and one million a year from April 2023.
If the prime minister introduced this insulation scheme, they could insulate fuel-poor homes and cut their bills permanently. Poorly insulated homes will pay £1,000 more on their gas bills because heat will escape through their lofts and walls this winter. Insulation is a quick, permanent fix to keep people warm.
It will take action from all of us and the need for additional financial support to get families through this winter remains. But if we act now to insulate our homes while building the renewables Britain needs, we can defeat Putin this winter. Because while his weaponisation of energy hurts us - it hurts Russia more, depriving his war machine of the cash it needs.
First published by the Daily Express. Alexander Stafford MP (Rother Valley) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.