It’s time Rishi Sunak got serious about the energy crisis

We should be worried about rising energy bills and Government hesitancy to take action to reach net zero ahead of the Spring Statement next Wednesday. We need a clear UK commitment to lower energy costs by improving energy efficiency in homes, businesses, and buildings. This can be done through a Shared Prosperity Fund. 

UK households and businesses are feeling the pinch of rising energy costs. Having already risen by 54 percent and likely to rise further due to our dependence on fossil fuels, Wales Fiscal Analysis has calculated that the average Welsh household on a default dual-fuel energy tariff will see their energy bill rise by £693 from April. 

This nightmare is especially dangerous for Wales. With almost one in four people living in poverty, and 31% of our children in poverty, we have the highest levels of poverty and child poverty among the four countries. Our vulnerability to energy price shocks is compounded by having the oldest, least energy efficient housing stock in the UK with a fifth of homes in Wales built before 1900 and the lowest proportion of dwellings rated EPC ‘C’ or above. This has a significant impact on our climate as housing is responsible for approximately 20 percent of our carbon emissions. 

The Chancellor will argue that he already intervened by providing de facto loans to UK households, which were insufficient at their inception and are even more inadequate now. Rejecting calls by all parties to introduce a windfall tax on cash-rich oil and gas producers – the largest producer in the North Sea just reported $1.7 billion of profits – the Government has instead gone cap in hand to the Gulf autocracies, begging them to pump more oil. They refused. 


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Several reactionary politicians, including a number of Conservative MPs have fallen back on another tried and tested method – populist politics. Shamelessly forgetting COP26 in Nov, or the latest IPCC climate change report, Conservative MPs made dubious claims about net-zero and even advocated fracking for the solution to our energy crisis.

This is absurd. Cardiff University recently concluded that 1016 fracking pads would be needed to replace just half of the UK’s gas imports to 2035. This would mean that one shale gas pad will be constructed approximately every five days in the UK’s countryside over the next 15-years. 

Secondly, more domestic gas production will not translate into lower prices for UK consumers since our prices reflect Europe’s  gas markets, with which we are interconnected. According to the Green Alliance cross-party thinktank, this interesting fact is for frackers that the first four days in September’s current gas crunch triggered the largest ever gas export from the UK into Europe. This was because domestic producers were looking for the best price for the product. 

Finally, there is small matter that fracking is a devolved matter and has been banned in Wales since 2018 following a Plaid Cymru motion – England followed in 2019. Although Wales has joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance at the COP26, the UK Government refused this week to respect devolved powers over Fracking. 

The Shared Prosperity Fund may be the mechanism to bring about a significant change in our energy system. The UK Government levelling up funds have so far been disjointed, unfocused, and fashioned along partisan lines. Simply put, they have not met the scale, ambition, or delivery requirements necessary to meet the UK’s current challenges.   

Plaid Cymru, however, is advocating the use of the Shared Prosperity fund through my upcoming Ten Minute Rule Bill. This will help to level up the UK and achieve wholesale energy efficiency improvements. Retrofit funding will be used to combat both the climate crisis as well as the cost-of living crisis. 

There is ample evidence to support and demonstrate the impact of such a measure. Last Budget, we amplified calls for a £3.6 billion investment programme in Wales by the UK Government which would have delivered average savings of £418 per year – savings for UK households, rather than foreign energy company dividends.

This is not party politics – this is about helping those who desperately need help in a responsible and rapid manner. A devolved Shared Prosperity Fund with Wales setting priorities and investing would enable a transformative programme that would meet our social, economic, and climate needs. 

While I hope to be proven right, it seems the Chancellor doesn’t care about further measures to address energy and cost-of-living crises. We must act quickly, while we have the opportunity, to help as many people as possible. Anything else is a failure to fulfill our responsibility, ambition, and duty.