Energy Bill of Rights Launch
27 October, 5pm (Allow time to get through security)
House of Commons, Committee Room 12
The Energy Bill of Rights, which was endorsed by Reclaim the Power at this year’s camp’s final plenary, is being publicly launched with a speak-out in the House of Commons on Monday 27 October. Put together by Fuel Poverty Action, it unites what politicians have tried so hard to pull apart. On the one hand the fundamental right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs, to properly insulated, well-repaired housing, and to a fair pricing system that does not penalise those who use energy less (no standing charge!) And on the other, the right to energy which does not harm us, the environment, or the climate — and which does not, like fracking, threaten health, safety, water, air or the local environment. Energy under our own control, where we don’t have to choose between poverty and pollution.
This event will also launch Fuel Poverty Action’s new mini-guide for self-defence against the rapacious energy companies. Learning from the movement against the Poll Tax, Fuel Poverty Action’s ambition is a network of local resource points for the thousands of people who are now resisting the companies on their own. We are glad to help train up any local group or centre willing to make this a part of what they do in their community. Everyone should be able to get advice and support to refuse unwanted prepayment meters that leave you in the dark and cold when they run out, and to refuse extortionate payments on arrears that take no account of other needs, for instance to feed your children. No one should be having their homes broken into by energy company thugs.
Collective resistance — a different kind of direct action — could seed a powerful self-help movement and give us all the strength to push further for the energy rights we have not yet won.
A live connection between people who are fighting over bills and people who are fighting over fracking could finally kill off the lie that fracking has “potential” to bring cheap energy, and could be a nail in the coffin of the story that we all have to choose between the environment and economic survival. (I think it was Frack Free Lancashire who reported at camp that a councillor had asked them, “how many people have died from fracking? And how many have died from fuel poverty?”)
The government has deliberately cut back law centres, legal aid, and even Consumer Focus which helped gas and electricity consumers. If we get into arrears we’re supposed to queue round the block for an appointment with a CAB. The question is, will this leave us helpless, or will we do it ourselves? Because what can happen when you do it yourself, is that you lose the shame of being in debt, you lose your reluctance to talk to your neighbour, and you start to look at the rights you have and say, “that’s fine, but it’s not enough. If we have the power to insist on these, then what about our other rights?” The rights that aren’t yet recognised, but that everyone has to admit are perfectly reasonable, common sense, in fact absolutely essential if we are going to end poverty and save life on this planet.
What about, the Energy Bill of Rights?
We hope to see you on 27 October, and, even more important, be in touch after that to make these rights a reality on the ground.