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Elderly and vulnerable need energy discounts now says the Energy Advice Line

Ministers investigating ways to reduce household energy bills should prioritise the elderly and vulnerable, according to the Energy Advice Line.

Julian Morgan, managing director of the business energy price comparison, switching, and advice service for energy consumers, said the poorest households needed immediate help to ease the financial burden of keeping warm this winter. “We welcome the government’s investigation into ways to lower energy bills for UK consumers but there still seems to be a lack of focus on low income families who are hurting the most,” Mr Morgan said.

“Reports that ministers want to implement green energy schemes more slowly in order to achieve savings for households of up to £50 a year is obviously welcome. But households facing the heat-or-eat choice this winter won’t find much solace in the initiative as it will do little to help them afford to keep warm now. Ministers should keep their sights fixed on giving generous assistance to those who need to it most, rather than modest help across the board.”

According to BBC reports, the government’s largest environmental levy, the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme, which gives free insulation to low-income homes, will still be implemented. But it will be rolled out more slowly, over four years instead of two, reducing the annual cost by half. The government also plans to fund another levy, the warm homes discount, out of tax rather than customers’ energy bills. As well, regulations could be changed so the cost of transmitting energy, which makes up about 20% of an average bill, could be cut.

Mr Morgan said the government’s plans were more realistic than Labour’s pledge to freeze prices for 20 months if it is elected in 2015, a move it claims will save consumers about £72 per year. But he said energy prices were now so high that low-income households needed significant assistance to make any real difference to their ability to heat their homes.

“The government needs to target its financial support to those who need it most”, Mr Morgan said. “It should consider giving greater financial assistance to fewer households – to those that really need it – rather than giving what amounts to very modest savings of £50 a year to all. It should also consider more radical options to help low income households, like tariff discounts that will really make a difference.”

The chancellor is expected to announce details of the investigation in his financial statement next week.

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