By Eoin Dawson,
The majority of people in Britain support the re-nationalisation of energy companies, according to YouGov research for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies. 68% said that energy companies should be nationalised and run in the public sector. The privatisation of electricity and gas has led to massive price rises for ordinary people and huge profits for these companies leading to an upsurge in fuel poverty where families are left to make the impossible choice between feeding themselves or heating their home.
One study suggested as many as 75,000 households in Northern Ireland have suffered some level of fuel poverty in the last 2 years. As Christmas approaches and temperatures drop, many families wait with baited breath to see how much of their shrinking household budget they will have to set aside for heating their home.
The recent dispute at the Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland showed just how much control over our lives big energy companies have. Grangemouth workers, on strike over pay and job cuts, were forced to return to work as their Ineos bosses held Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of Northern England to ransom, threatening to cut off fuel.
For these companies profit is the bottom line. As fuel prices rise their profit margins are squeezed. But instead of investing in the development of renewable energy sources they pass on costs to working class people in the form of price hikes. The most recent of which was the 14% increase imposed by Firmus energy on their customers outside Belfast.
For the energy companies investment in renewable, clean energy simply does not provide enough profit in the short term. Recent developments in solar, wind and tidal energy generation could be further developed and implemented to provide cheap energy for all. However this is not in the interest of energy companies who only care about profits.
The capitalist production of energy requires that working class people in the main pay for highly profitable energy companies to burn fossil fuels and suppress alternative means of energy production. This system leaves many people incapable of affording the fuel to heat their homes while paying out millions to shareholders and high paid executives.
The only solution to the problems of fuel poverty and unsustainable energy production is the nationalisation of the “Big 6” and other energy suppliers under democratic workers control. By taking away the profit motive, a nationalised energy service could provide affordable energy for all. A democratically controlled energy service could be developed as a service run in the interest of ordinary people; a sustainable, environmentally friendly and affordable service.