At 2pm, over 100 people gathered at the Department of Energy and Climate change to protest against rising fuel bills, government cuts and the collusion of the government and the Big Six in pushing ahead the so-called ‘dash for gas’. The protesters then took their demonstration towards Downing Street and blockaded Whitehall when four wheelchair users entered the busy main road. After other protesters came to join, traffic was blocked for around one hour, before the protest came to an end.
Those blocking the road held giant mock fuel bills addressed to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, bearing the slogan: ‘Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay’. They also wrote testimonies of their experiences of fuel poverty on their personal fuel bills, which were displayed outside the building. Before blocking the road, those present held a ‘fuel bill assembly’ to speak out about how rising fuel bills and cold homes are affecting their lives and to discuss solutions.
Elizabeth Ziga of Fuel Poverty Action said:
‘Sky-high bills, unjust cuts and the disastrous ‘dash for gas’ leave us with no other option but to take direct action like we did today. While millions of us must choose between heating and eating, the government are snugly in bed with the Big Six energy companies. DECC have caved into the Big Six’s plot to increase our dependence on dirty and expensive gas power, even though this will send fuel bills through the roof and contribute to rising food prices through climate change. The action we took today was to speak out for the alternative: clean, cheap renewable energy controlled by communities, not by corrupt politicians and energy tycoons.’
Lisa Murtagh, who participated in the demonstration, said:
‘I have permanently turned off two radiators out of five, I turn the heating off when at home for at least two hours per day – I tried putting it on half the normal setting but it’s too cold. It is a huge burden to have such an enormous fuel debt with arrears increasing daily. The government is allowing energy companies to continue their racket while cutting benefits at the same time. How do they expect people to pay these bills?’
DECC is being targeted as part of a UK-wide weekend of action on fuel poverty called ‘Stop the Great Fuel Robbery’, organised by direct action- group Fuel Poverty Action. Big Six energy company offices have also been targeted. Yesterday, the Edinburgh headquarters of Scottish Gas (Scottish arm of Centrica), were also targeted in a demonstration organised by a tenants’ federation.  E.ON’s Nottingham offices were hit by demonstrations on Thursday. Actions are also taking place in Manchester, Lewisham, Hackney, Haringey and Southwark. 
The protest against DECC comes amidst strong criticism of their ‘flagship’ Green Deal scheme, which replaces government energy efficiency grants with private sector loans. The Green Deal has been criticised due to its high interest rates and upfront fees and its potential for allowing big banks and energy companies to profit.  Recent Freedom of Information requests revealed that dozens of Big Six staff are being loaned to work on government energy policy within DECC.  DECC have also been criticised for their role in pushing ahead a so-called ‘dash for gas’ despite the fact that increasing the UK’s dependence on gas would increase energy bills and exacerbate climate change.  Meanwhile, the government have cut fuel poverty budgets by 26 per cent and slashed energy efficiency measures for the fuel poor by 44 per cent. 
 For more info on the fuel bill assembly at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, see: http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/stop-the-great-fuel-robbery/mass-fuel-bill-assembly-at-the-department-of-energy-and-climate-change/. Groups supporting the protest include: All African Women’s Group, Climate Justice Collective, Disabled People Against Cuts, Frack Off (London), Global Women’s Strike, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association, National Pensioners’ Convention, Redbridge Pensioners’ Forum, Red Pepper, Single Mothers’ Self Defence, Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group, WinVisible.
 For more info about the protest at Scottish Gas, see: http://edinburghenergycampaign.org.uk/.
 For a full list of actions taking place across the UK, see: http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/2013/02/11/where-are-assemblies-and-action-happening/.
 See http://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/critics-say-coalitions-green-deal-is-no-solution-to-curse-of-fuel-poverty-8477931.html and http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/27/green-deal-benefits-tory-friends.
 According to the government’s own projections, energy bills will rise by £600 by 2020 if the dash for gas goes ahead, but would only rise by £100 if we invested in renewable instead. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/13/gas-energy-bills-renewables. John Gummer, Chair of CCC, recently wrote to the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, warning that the Government’s dash for gas could be illegal: “extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity… in 2030 and beyond would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets.” (http://hmccc.s3.amazonaws.com/EMR%20letter%20-%20September%2012.pdf).