‘Energy shock’ to cost Enfield residents £110m a year, research finds

Academics have looked at the impact of rising bills in Enfield, reports James Cracknell

Gas meter (credit Arthur Lambillotte via Unsplash)
Energy bills are set to double compared with last year (credit Arthur Lambillotte via Unsplash)

The likely impact of soaring energy bills in Enfield has been revealed by a group of university academics who warn of “a drastic decline in real standards of living” for local people.

An expert team from University of Warwick carried out research on what they dub the “energy shock” across a broad sample of local areas in England and Wales, with Enfield chosen among them. They found that the effect of rising heating and electricity costs this year will take £110million out of the pockets of Enfield residents.

The research concluded that “the average household in Enfield may see increases in energy bills of £1,128 per year, even with the existing government support in place”.

In better news, the Warwick academics also found evidence of “a large potential for energy savings” in Enfield, with a 33% reduction in energy use possible from steps such as improving insulation and upgrading to high-efficiency boilers. Such measures, if implemented, would save the borough’s residents between £60m and £86m per year in total and also slash carbon emissions by 123,000 tonnes.

However, to make these reductions possible it would require a combined investment of £482m in improving 54,229 of Enfield’s worst-affected properties.

In their paper looking at the energy crisis in Enfield, Warwick University academics Thiemo Fetzer, Ludovica Gazze and Menna Bishop write: “The energy crisis is a broad-based economic shock that can threaten social and economic stability in the UK and it will see households in Enfield hit hard.

“Even with government support […] we estimate that the average household in Enfield will see an increase in their energy bill of £1,128 relative to prices from October 2021.

“Importantly, the government financial support to households is not itself without costs, as the government either will have to borrow, cut spending, or raise taxes in order to finance the energy price support package. As such, households will have to pay the price of higher energy either directly, or indirectly.”

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They add: “Even households who already consume very little energy – which are typically among the poorest – will be hit hard. Households at the tenth percentile of the energy consumption distribution (that is, 90% of households consume more energy than them) are projected to see an increase in energy bills of £618 despite the support from the energy price guarantee.

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“Households who have such low energy consumption typically live on a household income of less than £15,000 per year. For these households this shock, in the context of broader inflationary pressures, may cause a drastic decline in real standards of living which may threaten social cohesion and social stability.”

Thiemo, who is Warwick’s professor of economics, told the Dispatch the aim of the group’s research had been to “raise awareness with local councils and local government of the large energy savings potential that is untapped in local communities”.

He said: “We are hoping to use our work to encourage collaborations between local councils and the research team to improve our understanding of why, for example, existing schemes have failed to deliver and what can be done to expand and scale-up existing schemes.”

The researchers also emphasised that helping households insulate their properties would be a “win-win-win” as households could permanently save money, help fight the climate crisis and also “reduce our vulnerability to foreign powers that may use energy as leverage or as a weapon” as was happening with Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The University of Warwick has even offered to help Enfield Council develop an action plan for cutting energy consumption locally, with Thiemo saying it was “happy to assist in identifying barriers to take-up of energy efficiency investments” as well as design schemes to “overcome these barriers”. He added: “Such a partnership can make your district an example to follow in the whole country.”

Read the University of Warwick paper in full:

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