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Energy industry should be in public hands

When the energy industry was privatised back in the 1980s, the dream of companies competing with one another in the provision of energy services, to the benefit of a suitably grateful public, soon soured. The ‘free market’ vision was dispelled, revealing in its place half a dozen monopolies busily engaged in setting up price-fixing cartels to fleece the public.

It was as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, with a captive customer base defenceless against ruthless overcharging.

So blatant was the insatiable greed of these companies becoming that in 2019 Ofgem tried to rein them in, introducing energy price caps across the board and encouraging the public to get savvy about switching from supplier to supplier, supposedly to keep the monopolists on their ‘free market’ toes. It looked as if the ‘free market’ was back in operation (thanks to state intervention!), with small-scale suppliers offering deals to customers that put a downward pressure on bills overall.

But all that it has taken to collapse this delicately rebalanced house of cards has been a temporary glitch in global gas supply and a consequent spike in wholesale gas prices.

Many of the competitive tariffs offered by the new kids on the block depended on wholesale gas prices remaining stable. When those prices went through the roof, it proved impossible to honour the cheaper tariff promises and many suppliers went bust.

Since the beginning of August 23 such companies have folded, affecting more than 3.7 million households.

The Workers Party believes in the public ownership of the energy industry, its too vital to leave in the hands of these highwaymen.