The Government’s energy strategy has been criticised by both panellists and audience members for its lack of insulation policies and short-term solutions. One audience member slammed the Government Minister for Energy and Clean Growth Greg Hands for being “patronising” over Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s energy support package and criticised the energy strategy for not doing enough.
Previously in the programme Mr Hands noted that there is “£9 billion set aside, a £200 discount on energy bills, £150 discount on council tax, additional funds to make sure the most vulnerable are given assistance to pay their energy bills.”
He was then mocked by panellists and the audience for claiming Mr Sunak’s £200 loan to support rising energy bills was in fact a discount.
A single mother in the audience explained her financial difficulties to the Minister: “The truth of the matter is, I live in a rural community with an oil tank. It is very expensive.
“I want to go green; I can’t afford to because all the utilities have doubled, which means VAT has doubled – where is that money going?”
She continued: “Why can’t we get some sort of grant or something from the extra VAT you’re raising to at least do some insulation, something quick, but I don’t know how I can even begin to get an oil tank out of my back garden.
“I’m a single parent, I can’t afford it. There’s nothing left in my purse.”
Mr Hands replied: “I’m very much with you in terms of the difficulties people are having paying those high heating oil prices”, before swiftly moving on to answer other questions.
Panellist Zing Tsjeng, Editor in Chief of Vice UK, later took up the issue of insulation that had been mentioned by the audience member.
Ms Tsjeng said: “It occurs to me, like many people in the audience have already mentioned, insulation is one of the cheapest, quickest, and most effective ways for people to both cut their energy bills and to save on energy.
So why hasn’t that been part of the Government strategy?”
Labour’s Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry added: “It’s all very well being able to heat up our homes, but if it all goes out the window what is the point?”
Labour have released the energy strategy they would implement if they were in power, which includes insulating 19 million homes.
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Mr Hands brushed off questions of insulation as a positive short-term move and noted the strategy announced on Thursday was “long-term” focusing on “renewables, nuclear and making sure we’re not increasing our imports of oil and gas”.
He continued: “We need energy that is home-grown, and home blown.
“Our offshore wind capacity, our onshore wind capacity, we have more onshore wind than offshore, more solar, we are pushing all of this through, and today’s energy security strategy will help to move that further in that same direction of a low-carbon energy-secure future.”
The exclusion of insulation has been dubbed a “major misjudgement” by the former Conservative Energy Minister Charles Hendry, who said it will “force large numbers of very vulnerable people to be cold next year when they need not be.”