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As power prices rise, join the Big Power Off

Almost 35% of Sheffield households are set to be in fuel poverty when energy prices go up next month – one local campaign group is encouraging everyone to join the #BigPowerOff.

Power lines, Livesey Street, Sheffield
John Lord

Fuel poverty is set to double in the UK when energy prices rise on 1 April, and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Sheffield is asking people around the country to join the Big Power Off on that day. Whereas 3.16 million people in the UK were said to be in fuel poverty in 2019, this is set to rise to 6.32 million people when the price cap rises in less than two weeks.

245,150 households in Sheffield are set to be plunged into fuel poverty, and the government’s plans to force people into a £200 loan is widely seen as inadequate for the price rises we're due to see. A £150 Council Tax rebate will also provide help to some households. However, this represents a drop in the ocean compared to predicted numbers from Ofgem, who anticipate:

Those on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase of £693 from £1,277 to £1,971 per year (difference due to rounding). Prepayment customers will see an increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017.

For disabled people, who are more likely to live on a low income and may need to use household gas and electricity to sustain breathing equipment, keep themselves warm if they struggle to move around, charge mobility equipment or prepare specialist foods, these changes are even more devastating.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Sheffield
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Sheffield

DPAC Sheffield is asking people to stop using some or all of their gas and electrical appliances for the day by:

  • Turning the heating down
  • Using a slow cooker to prepare hot food rather than an oven
  • Skipping bath or shower day
  • Not using the washing machine
  • Not using equipment that emits heat such as hair straighteners, hair dryers
  • Eating cold foods or pre-prepared meals from the day before that can be heated up the following day
  • Turning the TV off for the day
  • Leaving the lights off
  • Turning non-essential electrical items off at the plug
  • Drinking cold drinks only

In addition, DPAC Sheffield wants people who are not able to stop using power to post selfies displaying the campaign slogan and make #BigPowerOff banners – using upcycled materials where possible.

David Hayes of DPAC Sheffield said:

With the rise in living costs, millions of people now face the choice between living or dying in order to feed the insatiable greed of the ruling class. We won’t get anything done waiting for politicians, ‘celebrities’ or unions to fight back.

We are the many. We are the real big society. We have the power to tell gas and electricity suppliers to get off their greedy backsides and stop fleecing us all for our essential gas and electricity supplies. You don’t even have to go outside. You can protest from home. We want to show power suppliers that we the people have the potential power to turn off the profits that make them and their shareholders obscenely wealthy whilst millions of people across the UK can’t even afford to cook our teas.

The campaign group are keen to point out that they're aware many people are already taking these steps through absolute necessity. Jennifer Jones said:

We acknowledge that some people have no option at the moment to eat cold foods; other campaigns that we are involved in are in solidarity with and because some of us are people in this situation. We know that many people absolutely must keep their heating and various equipments on in their homes due to disabilities, and in no way should anyone be made to feel shamed into doing this or that they’re not doing their part if they can’t commit to using less or no gas or electricity.

One of the benefits of the Big Power Off campaign is that it cannot be controlled or shut down under the government’s crackdown on protests. “The beauty of the #BigPowerOff is that there’s absolutely nothing that the government or the corporations they work for can do to stop it," continued Jones "What are they going to do? Waltz in and demand us to put the heating on?”

Use the hashtag #BigPowerOff on 1 April when you join the campaign and DPAC will amplify those voices, including captioning videos and resharing what you post. And, as households face another steep rise in energy costs in October, DPAC say that #BigPowerOff on 1 April is expected to be the first of many rolling household protests.

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