At approximately 8.45 am six of us occupied two meeting rooms at British Gas HQ. Since then police have attempted to break in and force us out. British Gas have now asked us to engage in “negotiations” over our demands. Here is our response.
How can ordinary people have a dialogue with energy companies which wield so much power over our daily lives? Will they bear responsibility for people’s lives – such as the 2.7 thousand estimated to die this winter as a direct result of fuel poverty in the UK, and the millions threatened by climate change?
How will a chat about our grievances make a difference when 4 million people filed complaints against their energy company last year, and we still have no say in how our energy is produced and priced?
What does British Gas, or any of the Big Six, or the government have to say on energy and poverty to the 18.4% households in England, 32.7% in Scotland, 40% in Wales and 43.7% Northern Ireland (still under British energy companies’ control) that are suffering fuel poverty?
The answer, until now, is business as usual. Bills have gone up 91% in past 6 years. Average bill of £600 in 2006 is now £1259. Companies lowering the prices only to be able to raise them whenever it suits, or offering insulation only to be paid back at exorbitant cost does not solve the problem of our powerlessness.
Can dialogue fundamentally change our condition of being at the mercy of a volatile profit-driven energy market that is accelerating climate change?“Dialogue” is so similar to empty government consultation, masking the huge deficit of democracy we are living through.
What we want is energy justice, equal access to green, sustainable, publicly controlled energy, or energy democracy i.e. a direct say in how our energy is produced. We don’t just want to talk about it, we want to see it. We want to make it happen and we want to shift the balance of power currently standing at the 99% (us) having our energy controlled by the 1% (energy company bosses), to equality democracy and an end to the rigged energy market that prioritises profit over people.
Phil Bentley has said he will meet us at time and place to be decided in the future. But this isn’t really about Phil. What would the meeting between Phil and his Big Six counterparts and government backers with the millions suffering from fuel poverty and climate change look like? Maybe we can see a glimpse of such a meeting and what we want not just in our small occupation of British Gas’s offices but in the wider Occupy movement and the millions out on the streets in Nigeria, Russia, Greece, demanding real democracy and energy justice.
Our actions need to speak for themselves. We’re occupying for the alternative.