Sector welcomes energy relief but calls for ongoing investment - Museums Association

Sector welcomes energy relief but calls for ongoing investment

Price guarantee for businesses will last until March 2023
Cost of living crisis
Prime minister Liz Truss and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced support measures for the cost of living crisis this week
Prime minister Liz Truss and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced support measures for the cost of living crisis this week Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

Museums and galleries have cautiously welcomed a government scheme to relieve energy prices over the winter, but warn ongoing investment will be needed.

Announced this week, the UK-wide Energy Bill Relief Scheme will provide a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices for all non-domestic customers, including businesses, charities and public sector organisations.

The news comes after some museums warned they were facing hikes of 400% or more to their utility bills as global energy prices soar.

The discount will be calculated based on wholesale costs of energy versus a government-backed price. The government says energy costs in Great Britain this winter are expected to be £600 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity and £180 per MWh for gas. A comparable rate will be set shortly for Northern Ireland.

The government-supported price is £211 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas.

The discount will apply to fixed contracts agreed on or after 1 April 2022, as well as to deemed, variable and flexible tariffs and contracts, and will cover energy usage from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023. Customers do not need to take action as support will be automatically added to bills.

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Government case studies show the scheme could reduce customers’ bills by as much as 50%, depending on the nature of their energy contract and wholesale market developments.

The government will review the scheme in three months to inform decisions on future support after March 2023, when the scheme is expected to be tailored to more vulnerable sectors.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has advised organisations to email their energy suppliers with any queries rather than overwhelming phonelines.

Museums Association director Sharon Heal said: “We welcome the six-month energy price cap for businesses and charities, which should help museums in the short-term to get through the winter period. However it is only a temporary fix and will not address the systemic underfunding of the sector over the past decade.

“In 2021 we commissioned new research that looked at local authority investment in museums which found that between 2010 and 2020 local authority spending on museums and galleries dropped by 27% in real terms.

“Many museums are housed in historic buildings. They are not energy efficient and are costly to run, heat and maintain. In the medium term we need investment to support museums become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, so we can reduce our carbon footprint and create sustainable futures for our organisations and our communities. And we need strategic long-term investment that addresses the issues caused by underfunding.

“Many museums across the UK have pledged to open their doors as warm, safe spaces for their communities over the winter. Museums are ideal places to provide this service; they are free or low cost, have the facilities and amenities that the public need and of course they have amazing collections, stories, exhibitions and programmes that can keep people entertained and engaged for hours. But in order for us to do that we need support and ongoing investment.”

How will the relief scheme affect your energy bill?

The MA is keen to hear your views on the planned discounts outlined in the guidance and if this will reduce energy bills significantly enough to make a difference. We are collating anonymised examples of calculations to demonstrate the impact the relief scheme will have. Any examples you can share would be really helpful for our discussions with DCMS.

Please email info@museumsassociation.org with your examples.

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