Energy crisis: UK households worst hit in western Europe, finds IMF

(The Guardian, 1 Sep 2022) Heavy reliance on gas is behind price surge, with the impact on poorest households also the worst in Europe.

The energy crisis is hitting UK household budgets harder than any country in western Europe, according to analysis by the International Monetary Fund. The difference between the cost burden on poor and rich households is also far more unequal in the UK compared with other countries.

The reason is the UK’s heavy reliance on gas to heat homes and produce electricity at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine has sent gas prices soaring. In addition, the UK has the least energy efficient homes in western Europe.

There is widespread agreement from energy experts on the best solutions: a large-scale and rapid insulation programme and a faster rollout of wind and solar energy, which produce electricity that is currently about nine times cheaper than that from gas, as well as short-term financial support for bill-payers. The government has consistently failed over the past decade to deliver major insulation programmes and has effectively banned onshore wind.

The IMF analysis assessed the impact of the energy crisis expected over the whole of 2022, based on forward fossil fuel prices in May, since when prices have risen. It found that the average UK household is expected to lose 8.3% of its total spending power in 2022, as a result of having to pay higher energy bills. The figure in Germany and Spain is 4%, while only Estonian and Czech households face higher impacts than the UK in the whole of Europe.

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The Guardian, 1 Sep 2022: Energy crisis: UK households worst hit in western Europe, finds IMF