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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 18:05 GMT
Have Your Say: energy
Someone warming their hands with an electric heater

There has been a call for the government to ensure all energy suppliers provide cheaper fuel options for less well off families.

This comes amid fears that prices may rise again this winter.

We asked for your comments - a selection of which are below - the debate is now closed.

It is not nationalisation or inefficiency, it is called 'doing the decent thing'
A Spicer, Bournemouth
I work in the energy industry and I am a bit surprised and disappointed by these selfish attitudes. Competition was brought about to bring more accountability, security of supply and lower prices. The licence conditions suppliers work to, have to take into account vulnerable consumers and for good reason! Gas and electricity is considered essential and it should not be denied to a family or elderly person because they lack funds. Suppliers have a responsibility to come up with innovative and cost effective products for those of us who are not as wealthy or independent as many of us. It is also getting the message to these people about the help available to them that we want to make possible. I am proud to disagree with many of the comments below. When suppliers chose to enter the competitive industry, they did so knowing full well their responsibilities and I cannot see conditions changing so these can be ignored. You should remember the people who need help are not necessarily those on the dole, but elderly people, disabled people, single parent families and many other potentially vulnerable parts of society. I ask you all, not to think selfishly, or as a shareholder, but as someone who recognises that some people genuinely need help. It is not nationalisation or inefficiency, it is called "doing the decent thing".
A Spicer, Bournemouth

We have a welfare state which should support genuine needy people
Michael Parsons, Leeds, West Yorkshire
I think "social tariffs" are wrong in principal, because they distort the free market which exists in the energy supply sector. If some "vulnerable groups" are allowed discounted fuel, who makes up the difference? The rest of us who work and pay our way no doubt. "Social tariffs" will discourage those on them to be energy efficient, because they will not be paying the whole cost of the energy used. We have a welfare state which should support genuine needy people. The responsibility for their welfare should not be placed on private companies and their standard tariff paying customers.
Michael Parsons, Leeds, West Yorkshire

I agree with A Miller. Current tariffs seem to reward waste by giving cheaper energy to those who use the most. It should be the opposite way round. Progressive energy pricing would make the first units the cheapest, with the price increasing as consumption increases. Standing charges should also be abolished. These simple measures would encourage energy conservation and tackle fuel poverty.
Steve West, Edinburgh

Compulsory social tariffs for gas and electricity... would increase... problems
Chris Grey, Guildford
It would be difficult to design a more complicated and less efficient set of state benefits, allowances and pensions than the present plethora of arrangements. The idea of compulsory social tariffs for gas and electricity (with no allowance for other forms of energy) would increase these problems. If the government wants to do something now for low income people, they should allow regular deductions from state benefits. These could be paid to the energy suppliers, who could then allow their cheaper direct debit tariffs to apply.
Chris Grey, Guildford

It is not realistic to expect profit-seeking companies to find and subsidise unprofitable customers. The subsidy should come from the government, in the form of a flat-rate payment per customer to cover standing charges and the first, necessary, units of power. This could be paid for by a tax (e.g. VAT) on subsequent units. This could be graduated, like income tax used to be. Thus, the big users would subsidise the small users, encouraging energy saving by making the first unit saved the most valuable, instead of being the cheapest, as at present.
Philip Tomlinson, Bristol

People claiming certain benefits are often entitled to free home insulation
Ruth Coulson, London
A great way to help the fuel poor would be to increase awareness of generous grants for home insulation that people can find out about by calling the Energy Saving Trust (0800 512 012). People claiming certain benefits are often entitled to free home insulation and other home energy efficiency improvements. People do not know about these grants and the government needs to step up their marketing for them.
Ruth Coulson, London

It is not up to commercial organisations (electricity, water, gas, communications, transport, or even foodstuffs) to provide "social tariffs". If social support is needed, then this is a government issue, and should be funded by the government.
Roger Killick, Congleton

Standard tariffs which reward low usage... might also encourage those who use large amounts of energy to cut down their consumption
A Miller, Berkshire
It would be better to have standard tariffs which reward low usage rather than the current system whereby the first x units are charged for at a higher cost than the rest. This would benefit low users of energy - e.g. those on low incomes and those who are energy efficient. It might also encourage those who use large amounts of energy to cut down their consumption, encouraging energy efficiency.
A Miller, Berkshire

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

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