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Student activism and the energy crisis: Epigram interviews Darren Jones, MP

Epigram interviews Bristol North West’s MP Darren Jones on Tory energy policy, student activism, and how students can prepare their homes for Winter.

Courtesy of Darren Jones' Instagram (@darrenjonesMP)

Lena Stein, Politics and International Relations, Third Year

Epigram interviews Bristol North West’s MP Darren Jones on Tory energy policy, student activism, and how students can prepare their homes for Winter.

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West since 2017, is chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee, and therefore well placed to answer concerns about increasing energy prices.

He is also running the 'Charge the Earth Summit' to help his constituents navigate the energy crisis and prepare their homes for the winter ahead, which you can learn more about here.

The 'Charge The Earth' summit, taking place 1st October

It is no secret that students are in a predicament this winter. Most rent on a one-year lease and have little control over their accommodation’s energy efficiency in halls.

With this, we are often unable to carry out energy saving home efficiency measures recommended by Jones’ summit. How then can we prepare our homes for winter and sky rocketing energy bills?

DJ: 'The good news is that there’s regulation in place that says if you own a home and rent it out heavily you have to hit EPC, the energy performance certificates… if they don’t hit that they’re not allowed to rent them.

There’s a lot of pressure on landlords to make them energy efficient sooner rather than later, which will benefit people who are privately renting.”

However, Jones acknowledges that these protections are not air tight.

DJ: 'There is a question of enforcement, so in Bristol at the city council level they’ve been doing a lot of work with landlord licences and doing spot checks around the quality of the home.

We’ve had a lot of cases where landlords are just not following the law, the regulation that’s been put in place, and getting away with it. We need to make sure there’s proper enforcement.'

Students renting private accommodation then at least have some level of protection, dependent on how stringently the regulations in place are followed. However, Jones raised concerns over the government’s £400 energy rebate.

DJ: 'The second thing that we’re conscious of is how do we make sure that bill support gets through to you.

In some circumstances where you are paying rent inclusive of bills or you have a particular kind of set up with a provider that provides purpose-built student housing, you know a bundle, if the government is putting £400 on everyone’s bill, is that getting through to bill payers or not?'

Jones was forthcoming in his criticism of the conservative government’s energy policy, not only in the implementation of the rebate but also in its financing.

Funded by national debt, tax payers will eventually need to repay the government’s intervention in our energy bills.

DJ: 'I think it [using national debt] is wrong, you’re not going to get all the money you need through a windfall tax so there was always going to be some element of debt requirement.

But there are some companies which have been making unexpected profits because predominantly of the Russian war in Ukraine and we think its fair that they should be taxed on those unexpected profits to help redistribute that wealth back to bill payers, many of whom are unable to pay their bills this winter, but the government has decided they don’t want to do that.”

Jones however is not wholly negative, acknowledging that rebates and intervention will 'benefit everybody, rich or poor'. However, he still sees room for improvement.

DJ: 'My slight worry is that because the government has left it so long they have no choice but to help everybody in one go.

What they could have done, if they’d maybe thought about it earlier, is maybe targeted better, [for the] people who needed it the most so they don’t end up spending too much debt.

But because of the conservative party leadership race they kind of didn’t do that and we are where we are'.

After discussing energy policy and the crisis facing households in the UK, we turn to student activism. The government’s decisions on energy are significantly affecting students, what can we do about it, and how can we translate that into actually making a difference?

DJ: 'Well there’s the political activism side of it, you need to maintain the pressure on  the political system as well as on businesses to act.

We’re obviously blessed in Bristol that we have four labour MPs that are committed to this issue, and at the local council level the majority of councillors are on the centre/ centre left whether they’re on the green party or labour party and therefore committed to action on the climate crises'.

Jones also identifies our role as university students.

DJ: 'And then of course we need lots of people to be trained to go into industries that are going to be required to help us hit net zero so whether its engineers or research or scientists and so on and so forth'.

Jones seemed to stress what could be done at the local level, so we asked what Bristol students could do about national policy.

'The pressure needs to be maintained nationally, especially with the new set of ministers in place. You know relatively local MP Jacob Reese-Mogg in Northeast Somerset just next to Bristol is the new energy secretary and he’s expressed some concerns about climate catastrophizing...which is a worry.

Liz Truss has just overturned the ban on fracking which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in my view. There’s a lot of stuff you should be focusing on nationally'.

Throughout the interview Jones clearly explained how the energy crisis will effect students and what we can do about it. Students must stay engaged with energy policy, especially during these times of crisis, in order to hold our government to account.

For more information on how you can lower your energy bill this winter, visit .