A petition to include off-grid households in the Government’s £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme has so far been signed by over 1600 people.
The Government announced on 26th May 2022 that UK households will get at least £400 off their energy bills as the Energy Bills Support Scheme is being doubled and made into a one-off £400 grant. However, only households with a domestic electricity meter will qualify for this grant.
A Government consultation on the proposed scheme ran from 11th April to 23rd May 2022. However, no organisations that represent boat dwellers, Travelling communities or other people living off-grid were invited to respond, nor were they made aware of the consultation.
Many thousands of people in the UK live off-grid. They live in boats, caravans, vehicles, or on the land without mains services. They are typically either working people on low incomes, or pensioners. Research has found that 51% of the liveaboard boater community were likely to have an annual income below £20,000, and 40% were likely to be earning minimum wage or less. The cost of living has increased much faster than wages. Some are having to rely on food banks and the generosity of others in the community.
Most of these households rely wholly or partly on diesel engines or generators, petrol generators, bottled LPG gas and solid fuel to heat and light their homes and to cook and heat water. Rapid inflation in
2022 means that petrol and diesel prices have risen by almost 50% and bottled LPG by around 40% compared to 12 months ago. The wholesale cost of LPG doubled in the year to June 2022. Those who have a mains electricity hook-up do not qualify for the grant because the supply to marinas and caravan sites is commercial, not domestic. The cost of solid fuel started to increase around 12 months ago. Some are finding they simply cannot afford these price increases.
People who live off grid may be able to use solar and wind power, but the amount of power renewables can generate if your home is a boat, vehicle or caravan is limited, especially in winter.
The good news is that the Government is aware of 400,000 households who don’t qualify for the scheme. The consultation findings, published on 29th July 2022, state:
“Households without a domestic supply contract
Some households will not receive EBSS from a supplier if they do not have a domestic electricity contract with a licensed electricity supplier. Affected groups would include those who pay their electricity as part of an inclusive charge with supply through a non-domestic contract. For example, residents of park homes paying a site owner, properties on a private electricity network and those who are not connected to the electricity grid. Evidence suggests that up to 400,000 would not receive EBSS support due to these circumstances, compared with approximately 29 million that will.
For these affected households, funding will be made available as soon as possible. We are developing approaches that will ensure they receive £400 equivalent support for energy bills this winter, working with local authorities, the devolved administrations and commercial partners. An announcement with details on how and when these households across Great Britain can access this support will be made this autumn.”
Many people living off-grid also wrote to MPs. An extract from an MP’s reply shows that the UK’s biggest navigation authority, Canal & River Trust, is also concerned about this:
“…Further to my recent email, I have received the below from the Chief Executive of the Canal & River Trust, Richard Parry:
‘Thank you for contacting me about this concern, which we share. I can confirm that we have raised this with both DLUHC and BEIS. The most recent response we received from the ‘Energy Bills Support Scheme’ email address in BEIS in June was:
“We have received correspondence from boat residents recently, so we are aware of this. We know that not all households have electricity provided through a domestic electricity supply contract. Households without a domestic electricity supply contract are not eligible for the Scheme and we are exploring options for other ways in which they might receive similar support.
This was raised in our technical consultation (Energy Bills Support Scheme – Managing the impact of the energy price shock on consumer bills) https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/technical-proposals-for-the-energy-bills-support-scheme which closed the 23rd May.
Responses to the consultation are being analysed and the Government response will be published later in the summer.’
We have asked which (if any) liveaboard boaters’ representative bodies have been able to respond to the consultation but I don’t think we have been advised of this yet.
I am not aware of any published Government response to the consultation to date, and I am grateful to you for
raising it with the Secretary of State. I hope that this helps to prompt a response from BEIS as I am sure liveaboard boaters will be increasingly anxious given current headlines about rising energy costs as we head into the autumn.
I shall of course keep both you and Mr Parry updated when I receive a response to my query with BEIS. Do let me know if there is anything else I can do to help in the meantime.”
Nick Brown, Secretary of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA), which started the petition, said:
“The NBTA has received many enquiries from boat dwellers about how they can claim this grant. It has been disappointing to have to tell people who are obviously very worried about the coming winter that we don’t know. The huge increase in the cost of all types of heating, lighting and cooking fuel is affecting off-grid communities just as much as the settled population. As winter approaches and the UK heads towards a
change of leadership, it’s all the more important that the government takes this issue seriously. We strongly encourage anyone concerned about the looming fuel crisis – whether they live off-grid or not – to sign
this petition and help us ensure that off-grid households aren’t left out in the cold.”
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