Edna is in her late 80s. She rarely goes out nowadays – except for medical appointments, most of the people in her life go to her.
She is financially still sharp, and lives within her income.
One thing that she watches like a hawk, however, is her electricity and gas usage; she is well aware that fuel prices are becoming an issue.
Edna’s Bright New Monitor
Hitherto, she has done this by going, each day, into the pantry to read the meters, but recently her electricity company, E.ON, has given her one of those new-fangled meters.
It is about the size of a large cell-phone, and sits on her kitchen worktop.
It feeds her usage figures back to the company – so no more visits from meter-readers (which is a good thing).
And also – now she has learned how to use it – it tells her from moment to moment how much electricity she is using, how much per unit it is costing, and how much she has spent this day/week/month/billing-period on electricity.
To be fair, Edna is delighted with it: ‘Turn on the kettle,’ she enthuses, ‘and see what happens’.
I dutifully turn on the kettle. The large yellow light on front of the gadget turns bright red.
‘That shows when I am using too much electricity,’ Edna tells me. ‘You’d be amazed what turns it red.’ Culprits, apparently, include the microwave, the washing machine and the outside light.
My Wife Sees Red
But when I go home and tell my wife about Edna and the new E.ON gadget, she becomes angry.
On reflection, having heard what my wife had to say, I become angry too.
‘That wretched gadget will stop her boiling her kettle,’ says my wife, ‘and she will stop making herself a hot drink when she needs one. It’ll stop her turning on electrical things.’
Knowing Edna, I suspect my wife’s judgement will prove correct.
Edna does not live in fuel poverty. She has plenty of money to pay for her gas and electricity.
But that does not mean she is not obsessed with her fuel costs.
Her house has gas central heating and a new boiler, but she only heats the room she is in. When she needs to go into a new room, she turns on the radiator to warm it up, and she turns the radiator off when she leaves. Only the living room is kept permanently comfortably warm.
So I can well believe that she will start turning off electrical gadgets when that wretched light turns red.
Edna does not live in fuel poverty, but the danger is that – for fear of that red light – she will end up living as though she were.
And, of course, that is what the government and the energy corporations want, have wanted all along, and are working to bring about.
A Government Which Is Killing Its Own Citizens
We are entering a period of fuel crisis. Many of our power stations are reaching their sell-by date. The new energy sources we are introducing to replace them are massively expensive. In order to sweet-talk the companies into paying for the new turbines and other renewable energy sources, the government has negotiated a system of ‘ROCs’ which allows the companies to charge the consumer two and three times as much for the electricity they produce. Prices are rising beyond what a family can comfortably bear. The number of people in fuel poverty is rising rapidly.
And what is the response of the government to this shortage of power and rise in prices? Is it, for example, to force the electricity companies to charge a fair price, to reduce their profits below the obscene?
Of course not.
Our government is ‘making’ the companies put these monstrous gadgets into the homes of poor and vulnerable people, so they can become frightened by how much electricity they are using …
… and cut down their usage.
That’s how this government are solving the power crisis and the spiralling costs – they’re fixing it so we use less power, whether we need it or not.
And in home after home, people are going to do without hot drinks and to eat their food unheated, are going to turn off the electric fire and to eschew the electric blanket, are going to disconnect the outside light and use a towel instead of the hairdryer, etc. etc. – all just to stop the evil eye of that bloody E.ON monitor turning red.
People are going to get ill and are going to die – some of them, even, when they could afford the electricity they needed!
Welcome to the Tories’ dark new world.