Friday, January 28, 2022

Net Zero Watch: 2.5 million British households can't pay their bills amid energy crisis


In this newsletter:

1) 2.5 million British households can't pay their bills amid energy crisis
The Daily Telegraph, 27 January 2022 
2) Saving money on energy bills more important to Britons than saving Net Zero
The Daily Telegraph, 27 January 2022

3) UK energy crisis hell as half of remaining British firms 'about to go bust'
Daily Express, 27 January 2022 
4) Net Zero could wipe out 14,800 Northern Irish beef and sheep farms, MPs warned
Yahoo Finance, 26 January 2022
5) Good news: Despite green opposition, EU to keep 'green' gas and nuclear labels
EU Observer, 27 January 2022
6) Rising energy prices likely to slow demand for electric cars
Auto Express, 26 January 2022
7) Mercedes owner 'horrified' to discover new electric battery will cost more than car is worth
Daily Express, 26 January 2022
9) Biden's energy policy in part is to blame for rising energy costs
Editorial, The Times and Democrat, 27 January 2022

Full details:

1) 2.5 million households can't pay their bills amid energy crisis
The Daily Telegraph, 27 January 2022

They have failed to pay either their mortgage, rent, loans, credit cards or other payments so far this year

Millions of British households have defaulted on essential payments this month, with many pushed to the brink as the cost of living crisis deepens. 

More than 2.5 million families have failed to pay either their mortgage, rent, loans, credit cards or bills so far this year, research by campaign group Which? found. An additional 800,000 households have been pushed into financial distress in the last month.

Spiralling energy bills and food prices have become the biggest pressure points on wallets, as spending power has eroded after inflation jumped to 5.4pc, the highest level in 30 years.

One in two households across Britain said they were switching the heating on less to avoid astronomical bills and nearly as many have been cautious to use their lights and appliances less, according to the survey.
Energy bills could increase by more than £700 to as much as £2,000, according to Martin Young, an energy analyst at Investec, an investment bank.

Adam French, of Which?, said: “This is hugely concerning as it suggests the cost of living crisis is already starting to hit hard. People should not be saddled with spiralling debts because of circumstances completely outside their control.”

The Government has been under mounting pressure to intervene and alleviate the burden for households, but has yet to announce any support measures.

Many middle and high income families will struggle for the first time and will be “extremely vulnerable” to surging inflation and rising interest rates. Higher earners have more debt as a percentage of their salary, which means they will be more exposed to rate rises and a higher cost of borrowing. 

Sarah Coles of Hargreaves Lansdown, a stockbroker, said: “Debt is one of the major Achilles’ heels of this group. Earning more doesn’t make your finances bulletproof. In fact, running a household with higher income, spending and debt, actually makes you less resilient if your circumstances change.”

A quarter of households will have to borrow money to survive the next few months, according to research from Creditspring, a lender. Neil Kadagathur of the group said: “We’re also on the precipice of a credit crisis – rising inflation means it is more likely we will see an increase in interest rates too. 

“This is a vicious circle that will only pile more pressure on households as mortgage costs will soar and the cost of credit – a vital lifeline to up to 15 million people – will become unaffordable, pushing many into debt.”
2) Saving money on energy bills more important to Britons than saving Net Zero
The Daily Telegraph, 27 January 2022

More than a third of households care more about cutting their bills than using environmentally friendly alternatives, according to a new poll.

A survey of the British public found that they are expecting a range of household costs to rise this year, including food, motoring and socialising as the country deals with a cost-of-living crisis.  

In particular, 75 per cent of respondents are expecting their utility bills to rise over the next few months, with 49 per cent expecting them to rise a lot.

Energy bills are expected to increase about 50 per cent in April, when the price cap is likely to be raised from £1,277 to £1,925, and could rise again in October to £2,400, according to energy analysts.

More than a third of respondents, 38 per cent, said it was more important for them to tackle their household costs than to make choices that were environmentally friendly, according to the poll.

Balancing costs and environmental concerns was of equal importance to 43 per cent of respondents, the survey found.

Only 13 per cent of respondents suggested that it was more important to make environmentally friendly choices, even if it costs more money, with young people and high earners more likely to agree with this.

Among those earning more than £55,000 each year say, 16 per cent said there should be a greater focus on green choices, compared to nine per cent of those earning up to £19,000.

The Government has faced calls to cut green levies from energy bills, with the Conservative Environment Network, a group of 116 MPs, arguing they should be temporarily moved to general taxation.

However, removing the levies will not be enough to offset the significant rise in bills, linked to a global gas crunch.

The Prime Minister has also been urged to help people invest in energy efficiency measures, such as insulation, to help them save on bills as well as reduce their emissions.
Full story
3) UK energy crisis hell as half of remaining British firms 'about to go bust'
Daily Express, 27 January 2022

OVER HALF of the UK's remaining electricity and gas suppliers are technically insolvent and on the verge of collapse in an ongoing "winter of discontent", according to analysis by an accounting firm.


Accountants at Price Bailey checked the credit risk scores and balance sheet information of all domestic electricity and gas licensees registered with Ofgem, the regulator for electricity and gas markets. Their research found that of 22 remaining suppliers, excluding the Big Six and two businesses with suppressed risk scores, 12 have negative assets on their balance sheet.

This means that 55 percent of remaining electricity and gas suppliers are deemed to be technically insolvent.

These businesses are vulnerable to going bust - when their cash flow becomes insolvent.

This occurs when the businesses are unable to make payments to suppliers or lenders.

Of those 12 which were found to be technically insolvent, six are in the “Maximum Risk” category according to their Delphi Score.

Ten of them have a Delphi Score indicating “Above Average Risk” or higher.

The Delphi Score is used as a way to measure and compare the strength, performance and creditworthiness of businesses.

Businesses deemed Maximum Risk find it difficult to access funding, and are highly likely to dissolve in the next 12 months.

Matt Howard, Partner at Price Bailey, commented: “The winter of discontent for the energy supply sector is unlikely to end soon.

“Around half of suppliers have already gone bust and at least another half are technically insolvent and at imminent risk of collapse. These businesses will find it almost impossible to access extra funding unless directors provide personal guarantees, and few are likely to do so in the current climate.

“We are seeing a domino effect. Every time a small energy retailer goes bust, that increases the financial strain on the rest of the ecosystem, making those businesses more vulnerable to collapse.

Full story
4) Net Zero could wipe out 14,800 Northern Irish beef and sheep farms, MPs warned
Yahoo Finance, 26 January 2022

Northern Ireland’s plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045 could wipe out 14,800 beef and sheep farms, the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has told MPs.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that farmers agreed that climate change legislation was necessary to tackle emissions, but added that a fair transition must be ensured.

“Beef and sheep farms operating in less productive land could see a decrease in farm numbers of 98%, that’s 14,800 farms ceasing to operate. Beef and sheep farms operating in the Lowlands could face a fall in numbers of 79%, with 4,100 farms ceasing to operate. The dairy sector could see a decrease of 86%, with 2,250 less farms,” Chestnutt said.

The figures stem from a KPMG report commissioned by stakeholders in the agri-food industry.

“Given a context of 24,000 farms in Northern Ireland, taking over 19,000 out of production? That is why we are so concerned,” he added.

Officials at the devolved Stormont institutions say that the climate strategy for Northern Ireland lags behind the commitments made by Great Britain and Ireland. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland without a climate change act.

Two separate climate bills are currently proceeding through legislative stages in the Assembly — a private member’s bill from Green party NI leader Clare Bailey and one tabled by agriculture and environment minister Edwin Poots.

Bailey’s bill, which is supported by a majority of other Stormont parties, sets a 2045 target for reaching net-zero carbon emissions. Poots’ bill wants to cut emissions by 82% by 2050.

The report added that 13,000 farming jobs in Northern Ireland were at risk under the bill.

Full story
5) Good news: Despite green opposition, EU to keep 'green' gas and nuclear labels
EU Observer, 27 January 2022

The EU Commission is going to stick to labelling gas and nuclear power as "green" in its taxonomy for investors, EU financial affairs commissioner Mairead McGuinness told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Wednesday. "We may be able to tweak the proposal in one place or another to address some objections, but we actually have limited room for manoeuvre", she said, after Germany, among others, complained about the labelling decision.
6) Rising energy prices likely to slow demand for electric cars
Auto Express, 26 January 2022
Expected removal of Energy Price Cap in April could cause higher electricity bills, making electric cars less attractive

The cost of charging electric cars could rise significantly as a result of moves by regulator OFGEM to raise the Energy Price Cap in April, potentially threatening the rate of EV adoption as consumers weigh up the benefits of switching from petrol or diesel cars.

The cost of electricity is driven mostly by the wholesale price of gas, which UK power stations use to generate between a third and half of the UK’s power. The figure rises when wind farms aren’t generating in calm weather.

Wholesale electricity costs are 300 per cent higher than a year ago and home bills could rise by as much as 50 per cent from April if OFGEM raises the cap as expected.

While many EV owners with smart home chargers benefit from low fixed-rate EV tariffs that offer cut-price off-peak electricity for charging, the Money Saving Expert website reports that most energy providers have pulled their EV tariffs.

EDF and Octopus Energy currently offer the lowest off-peak rates on their EV tariffs of just 4.5p and 7.5p per kWh respectively. EDF says its GoElectric tariff is still open to existing and new customers, and it intends to maintain the rate of 4.5p per kwh off-peak. Octopus raised its rate from 5p late last year, but says it’s committed to low EV tariffs as a ‘loss leader’ to encourage adoption.
Even so, new EV drivers can’t sign up online, and Octopus requires customers to talk to its sales consultants on the phone because some may be better off sticking with their current domestic supplier. That ties in with general consumer advice that EV owners looking for the best deal need to carefully work out the overall cost to change.

Energy UK, the trade body representing providers, said that if problems in the retail market remain and energy prices increase more generally, appetite for off-peak tariffs may decrease, making retailer investment in such models less likely and ultimately hindering longer-term EV uptake.

Full story
7) Mercedes owner 'horrified' to discover new electric battery will cost more than car is worth
Daily Express, 26 January 2022

A DRIVER was stunned to discover the cost to replace his Mercedes Benz's battery is £15,000 - more than the value of the vehicle itself.

Ranjit Singh, 63, bought the second-hand Mercedes Benz hybrid car four years ago, believing its lower CO2 emissions meant it was greener than the alternatives. The motorist, from Knighton, Leicester, bought it for £27,000 at a Mercedes Benz dealership.

But Ranjit learnt this week the battery had come to the end of its life after just eight years of motoring.

He claims he was quoted £15,000 for a battery replacement - excluding labour costs which he was quoted would be roughly around £200 an hour.

Speaking to Leicestershire Live, the dad said: "I have always been a Mercedes customer and loved the cars they produce and we bought the car for its reliability.

"I'm horrified by what has happened. I feel I now have just two options - scrap the eight-year-old car or spend more than it is worth.

"We checked on Auto Trader and it says the car value now stands at just £12,850."

Mr Singh claims the battery died after just eight years.

Full story
8) Biden’s Berlin Gas Airlift
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 27 January 2022

The West’s energy disarmament is a gift to Putin on Ukraine.

Energy is Russia’s most potent nonnuclear weapon, so it’s no surprise that Vladimir Putin is leveraging it as he threatens Ukraine. Europe’s climate obsessions have made it vulnerable to Russia, and so the Biden Administration is riding to the rescue by begging the Arabs and other energy producers to boost natural gas deliveries.

Russia typically supplies about 40% of Europe’s gas imports, but it has sharply truncated deliveries. Kremlin officials are threatening to cut off supply if the U.S. and Europe impose sanctions in response. Germany is especially dependent on Russian gas, which is why it has been reluctant to help arm Ukraine.

A Russian gas embargo could starve households of heating fuel this winter and potentially next if there’s a hot war in Ukraine. Gas might have to be rationed. Manufacturers could be forced to shut down, further damaging the economy and supply chains. At this perilous moment, it’s worth recounting how Europe got itself into this cold mess.

Start with government bans on hydraulic shale fracturing. Europe’s gas reserves are smaller than Russia’s, though it has about as much technically recoverable shale gas as the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. Yet European governments won’t let this strategic asset be developed.

Mr. Putin has helped fuel the green opposition. As former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in 2014, Russia “engages actively” with green groups “working against shale gas, obviously to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

Germany has made itself even more dependent on Russian gas by shutting down nuclear plants, which provide low-cost baseload power. Even as Russia reduced gas deliveries, Germany in December shut down three nuclear plants, and three more will be mothballed this year. This is the definition of self-sabotage.

The Trump Administration pressed Germany to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals to diversify its gas supply, as Poland, the Netherlands and Lithuania have done. But German LNG terminals are snarled in permitting delays. One company last year decided to turn an LNG project into a green hydrogen hub. This won’t heat homes.

Across most of Europe, coal plant shutdowns have also left Europe more dependent on gas. So have heavily subsidized solar and wind, which must be backed up by gas. As wind production lagged last summer and fall, gas demand and prices soared.

As a result, Europe entered the winter with little gas in storage. Russia exploited this by slowing gas deliveries. While rising gas prices send a market signal for power retailers to use more coal, Europe’s cap-and-trade program discourages this switch even when gas prices are surging.

All of this explains why the Biden Administration is now scrambling to locate spare gas to rescue Europe from Mr. Putin’s tender mercies. U.S. LNG exports are nearly maxed out, and many cargo ships are already headed to Europe. More U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to come online later this year, which will make America the world’s top LNG exporter.

Other major LNG producers such as Qatar and Australia may be able to boost supply to Europe at the margins. But Europe could still be staring into a long, dark winter if Russia imposes a gas blockade. It’s hard not to wonder how European leaders didn’t see this coming in 2014 when Mr. Putin invaded Crimea.

The self-created energy vulnerability of the West is one of the horrifying marvels of the age. You have to go back to the disarmament of the 1920s to recall a time of such willful self-delusion. Even as President Biden races to rescue Europe, his Build Back Better plan would send the U.S. down the same road of energy disarmament.

White House officials say Russia and Europe are interdependent since the Kremlin relies on oil and gas revenue to fund its budget. But Russia has other energy clients, including China. Gazprom is building gas pipelines to China. Even as Europe becomes more dependent on Russia for gas, Russia is becoming less dependent on Europe for revenue.

At the same time, the White House is making the U.S. more dependent on China for the minerals needed to advance its green energy agenda. On Wednesday, the Administration canceled Twin Metals Minnesota’s rights to mine copper, nickel and cobalt in northeast Minnesota. Green groups are pushing to scotch lithium mining in Nevada.

One predictable result will be shortages and higher prices. Doesn’t President Biden understand that inflation and high energy prices empower the very dictators he claims we are fighting in a long, twilight struggle?
9) Biden's energy policy in part is to blame for rising energy costs
Editorial, The Times and Democrat, 27 January 2022
With gas prices pushing over $3 a gallon and expected to go higher with the rising price of crude oil, Americans may be in for a rough ride. The higher cost of energy affects how much people travel, how much other goods and services cost and how much money is left over.

President Joe Biden knows the cost of energy and the inflation it is fostering throughout the economy do not sit well with Americans. While he may be limited in what he can do directly to affect oil prices in the short term, the president will get blamed. And in key ways, he is at fault with his anti-oil energy policies.

When Biden took office, America was essentially energy independent, but he signaled immediately that we was declaring war on oil and natural gas.

Biden kicked off his presidency on Jan. 20, 2021, by killing the Keystone XL pipeline. For the newly elected Democrat, it was a message affirming his commitment to green energy policies. But there were and are consequences.

First, there are the immediate economic impacts. Six months after Biden’s decision, TC Energy pulled the plug on the pipeline, which would have shipped 500,000 barrels a day from Western Canada into the U.S. refining system. Given America’s annual production of 16.5 million barrels a day in 2020, that was not a major loss at the time.

“But today, domestic energy supplies are strained and global demand is soaring. U.S. allies in Europe are struggling to meet demand in the winter of 2022. Circumstances are very different from the day Biden blocked Keystone,” Woodward writes.

“When Biden shut down Keystone, which really was bending over backward to do everything right from the Democrats’ perspective — and Biden still killed it — that sent a message to the entire industry that it didn’t matter what you did, this administration wanted to shut you down,” said Dan K. Eberhart, CEO of Canary, one of the largest oilfield service companies in the country.

The pipeline cancellation has not helped U.S.-Canadian relations, and it has not slowed oil production in Canada. In other words, the oil is still flowing, just not the way of the U.S.

Woodward writes: “It has certainly changed the mood between Ontario and Washington, D.C. Keystone was in many ways primarily a Canadian project. Biden’s reversal on the pipeline, as well as proposed subsidies for U.S.- made electric vehicles, has heightened tensions between the two allies. …

“If Biden’s goal was to keep the oil in the ground, it didn’t work. Canadian oil production remained strong throughout 2021 and is expected to hit a new record in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency.”

Closing Keystone has not strengthened America’s hand with potential enemies.

“Biden has been left in the awkward position of lobbying Congress to keep the Nord Stream 2 pipeline open, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues threatening a possible invasion of Ukraine. And less oil from Canada and the U.S. on the global market means more demand for products from Russia, Libya, and Venezuela,” according to Woodward.

“This was a missed opportunity to increase North American energy security, lower costs for American consumers, and reduce dependence on foreign energy sources that are hostile to U.S. interests,” says Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at American Petroleum Institute.

Biden is now reaching out to OPEC seeking increased oil production to help bring down prices. It’s a return to the past with the country again reliant on oil from sources that have no particular reason to accommodate the U.S.

Yet, H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., senior fellow on environmental policy for the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, says is unlikely Biden will reconsider Keystone XL and his other energy policies.

“Biden is imposing methane regulations on the industry that the Trump administration decided were not necessary for public health and safety. Biden has agreed to block new natural gas pipelines and new natural gas power stations, so he’s helping create energy shortages in the U.S. and approving pipelines from Russia as opposed to shipping our gas,” Burnett told InsideSources’ Woodward.

“Biden’s view seems to be ‘Energy is good for the world, but not for the United States.’”

The London-based Net Zero Watch is a campaign group set up to highlight and discuss the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies. The Net Zero Watch newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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