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The government has been warned that it faces a major public backlash if it attempts to use an increase in domestic gas prices as a way of encouraging homeowners to buy low carbon heating appliances.
A survey of 2000 homeowners commissioned by the Energy Utilities Alliance (EUA) has found that the public is strongly opposed to such an approach. It has found that four in ten voters (40%) would be ‘less likely to vote’ for any government that announced an increase in the price of gas, while nearly eight in ten (76%) would support reducing VAT on the fuel.
Mike Foster, chief executive of the EUA, says a move to increase levies on the price of gas would be a kick in the teeth of hard-pressed consumers. “During the Brexit referendum campaign people were promised that, if we came out of Europe, we would be able to set our own levels of VAT on domestic fuel and that this would allow the government to reduce VAT and effectively cut fuel bills. They have been let down. But to make matters worse, Whitehall officials are now planning to force the price of gas up, to encourage consumers to rip out their gas boiler in favour of a £10,000 heat pump. It will be a gross breach of trust and a very reckless political move for any political party to make.”
The research also reveals that whilst the public support efforts to combat climate change, nearly three quarters would prioritise fuel poverty over action on climate change.
“I believe the public supports efforts to deal with the climate crisis, but not at the expense of plunging more people into fuel poverty,” adds Foster. “If the government does force up the price of gas, it is vital that the fuel poor are supported. Yes, we have to deal with the climate emergency, but the public wants a thought-through strategy not a knee-jerk tweaking of gas prices that will impact the poorest in society and do nothing to encourage the uptake of low carbon heating technologies.”