Posts Tagged ‘energy’
They’re looking at a selling ban if they don’t sort out their customer services according to energy watchdog Ofgem. Scottish Power need to start cutting down on helpline waiting times, among other things.
The energy provider now has monthly deadlines, set by Ofgem, to improve various aspects of their business. If they don’t fix them, then they suspend Scottish Power’s sales activities. The company have to sort out their backlog of customer complaints need to cut their overdue customer bills to 30,000 from 75,000.
Ofgem added that Scottish Power needs to significantly speed up the time it takes to answer customer calls by the end of January.
“The need for our intervention here is yet more evidence that the energy market is not working for consumers,” said Sarah Harrison, senior partner in charge of enforcement at Ofgem.
The whole of the energy retail market is currently being investigated by Ofgem and, we could well some of the biggest energy suppliers being broken up.
npower says: “We’re doing this as part of a project from the government. It means we can provide every one of our electricity customers with the same £12 amount. All the other energy suppliers are doing this too.”
“If you pay your electricity bill by direct debit or when we send you a bill, then you’ll see a line on your bill with a £12 credit. You don’t have to do anything.”
“If you’re one of our prepayment customers the process is a little different.”
“Because we can’t yet add the £12 to your prepayment meter automatically we’re sending you a letter to use at your nearest Post Office. You need to take the letter and your prepayment card/key to the Post Office with your identification (listed on the letter), and the staff will top it up for you.”
The Government themselves have prattled on about it and why it is happening and all that. If you’re interested in the ins-and-outs of it all, then click here.
The short version of all this, is that the Government have vowed to lower energy bills for everyone and so, everyone gets £12, which means you can go an buy some beer or a CD from Asda or something.
However, there’s a glimmer of hope for us all as wholesale gas prices in the UK hit a record low today, which means that there’s increased pressure on our beloved energy firms to cut our household bills.
So what’s the latest drop in price all about? Well, Ukraine and Russia have signed a deal which will see Moscow resuming gas supplies over the winter, guaranteeing delivery to the EU. Seeing as Russia provides around a third of Europe’s gas, this is good news.
Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather we’re having this time of year, British households are avoiding putting the heating on, which is also having an impact on bills.
Ofgem have said that they are chasing up Britain’s energy suppliers on why they had not passed the significant falls in wholesale costs on to customers this year.
With all these factors, we might just see some price drops in our bills, but don’t hold your breath.
The government were moved to comment on the unrest that the UK could be thrown back into the 1970s when it was power cuts ahoy. Davey has also claimed that a back-up plan is ready to be set in motion should anything actually go wrong.
One of the plans involve is where firms could be paid to generate their own electricity and factory production could be shifted to non-peak times.
Fears of what was called an ‘energy crunch’ were heightened after several fires and incidents at power stations, along with the closure of others.
Davey said: “We have extra contingencies on top of the caution, and extra contingencies on top of the contingencies.”
“They [the companies] volunteer to get payments – if the National Grid say, ‘we want you to come off the national grid for a few hours and generate your own power’, you will get paid for that. That is cheaper for the consumer than building an extra power plant. Cheaper, quicker and industry likes it.”
“And some companies would change their behaviour, voluntarily, and be recompensed for it. Turning down their refrigerators by a degree, or changing a shift pattern for a week so staff come in earlier… the idea is to move factory production away from peak demand periods.”
The UK is looking down the barrel of an energy crunch over the next two winters when the capacity margin – how much its total generating capacity outstrips expected peak demand – is expected to shrink to as little as 2%.
In addition to all this, Davey also advised households that they could be saving £200 by choosing a new energy tariff: “I want people to get a better deal on their energy bills. Some of the new smaller suppliers are cutting prices and forcing bigger players to respond. Over two million people switched energy supplier between last October and March this year as competition hots up.”
In fantastically shocking news that absolutely no-one was more than well aware of, price comparison sites have been accused for hiding the best deals because they’d rather promote the ones that serve them better. It’s almost like this hasn’t been going on for years!
The Big Deal website have started throwing accusations around (so lawyers, if you’d like to go to them instead of us, that’d be lovely) saying that five of Britain’s biggest price comparison sites are being deceitful.
Well, they’ve said that uSwitch never showed the cheapest deal over the Big Deal’s 13 week investigation, as well as regularly hiding three of the top five cheapest deals.
The sites use mechanisms to “hide deals where they ask users if they want to see deals they can switch to ‘today’ or ‘now’”, according to a statement from The Big Deal. By clicking ’yes’ to this option, the websites remove deals which don’t earn the price comparison sites a commission from the energy companies. Those just happen to be the cheapest deals. The Big Deal says that Money Supermarket and Confused automatically tick the ‘yes’ option.
They also say that Compare the Market and Go Compare automatically show users these results without asking the user, adding that “you have to go through several screens to ‘filter your results’ to see the cheapest deals.”
The bad news for these sites is that hiding deals could well be in breach of EU and UK law.
“Price comparison sites are worth hundreds of millions of pounds, make huge profits and with over 5 million people switching a year are a major part of the energy market,” said The Big Deal co-founders Henry de Zoete and Will Hodson in an open letter to the major price comparison sites. ”Yet there is no transparency to how they make their money or how much they charge. Polling by Populus found that 43% of people did not even realise that the sites charge energy companies a commission.”
uSwitch aren’t having it though, saying: “We are fully accredited under the Ofgem Confidence Code, meaning that our results tables are always ordered by the savings a customer can make in a fair, independent and unbiased way.”
“We are fully supportive of Ofgem’s decision to strengthen the code to ensure that all price comparison websites operate to the same high standard.”
Either way, if this is news to you, make sure you tinker with the settings on any price comparison site of any sort in a bid to make sure it is working for you, rather than the middle man.
Some of you may think this is blindingly obvious, but households are wasting around £80 per year because they don’t switch their televisions and consoles off at night. We are, to the hysterical, A Nation On Standby!
If everyone stopped leaving things on standby, then the country could make savings of £1.7 billion a year according to the Energy Saving Trust.
The survey, ahead of Big Energy Saving Week, found that three-quarters of people polled were worried about their energy bills, so one easy way to reduce them is to make sure that you’re actually turning off gadgets and such, when you’re not using them.
Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said: “Whatever your age, gender or the size of your household: our research has found millions of us are unintentionally wasting electricity when we leave our gadgets on standby. It’s an easy mistake to make yet it costs us a fortune.”
“Televisions and games consoles are now among the primary sources of our everyday entertainment, yet when left on permanent standby they are costing £45-£80 a year.”
“I’m not suggesting we get rid. I’m urging people to take back control of their appliances next week and switch off when we aren’t using them.”
It isn’t just leaving stuff on all the time either. Older people are adding to their bills by having rubbish, old fridges. Decrepit appliances are more likely to have faults that make them inefficient. A faulty thermostat on a freezer could be adding £45 to your bills, annually. Getting rid of old-fashioned light bulbs and replacing them with energy efficient ones and halogen lights with LEDs could save you around £45 a year on bills.
And if that doesn’t work, then you should check your provider to make sure you’re getting the best deal from them.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Consumers can make a real difference to their electricity bills by improving energy efficiency at home and Citizens Advice and Energy Saving Trust are there to help. Shopping around for the best energy deal can also make a huge difference.”
“We’ve slashed the vast array of confusing tariffs, so it’s now easier to compare energy prices and switching times will be halved by the end of this year. Households could be saving a further £200 per year just by switching suppliers.”
So there you have it. Stop being daft and save yourself some money. It doesn’t matter if you care for the Earth or not – with the money you save, you could buy a substantial amount of booze, so you know it is worth doing.
Well, customers will save around 3% on their average annual bill by 2030.
The Commons public accounts select committee reckon that this smart meter rollout will cost £10.6 billion for the actual meters, with households paying for the £11 annual running costs, plus the £215 cost of installation.
The committee predicts that consumers will save just 2% on an average annual bill of £1,328 until 2020, rising to £43 a year, or 3% by 2030. Of course, this is only dependent on whether customers are savvy enough to cut their energy consumption.
Who knows what will be going on in 2030? You can bet that the new meters will be redundant and out of date by then. Still, that’s not stopping anyone.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change reckon that households will save £18.5 billion over 20 years if they can see how much their energy is costing them. They overestimate how many people want to sit and gawp at an energy meter after they’ve finished work.
In addition to that, recent cuts to wholesale energy costs haven’t been passed on by the Big Six, so looking at an energy meter will inevitably make you hate your provider more.
Margaret Hodge, the committee chair, said: ‘The costs of installing 53 million smart meters will be borne by consumers through their energy bills. It will cost around £215 per home or small business over the next 15 years to install the meters – an additional cost people can ill afford.”
“Despite consumers footing the bill, they can on average make a saving of only 2% on the average annual bill of £1,328 until 2020. Even this is conditional on consumers changing their behaviour and cutting their energy use. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is relying on the consumer becoming more “savvy” in making decisions about using energy.”
“The department is depending heavily on assumed competition in the energy industry to control costs and deliver benefits. Relying on market forces to keep costs down may not be enough on its own to protect consumers. This is something energy companies don’t have a great track record on. Ofgem’s referral of the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority reflected serious concerns about the lack
of real competition in the industry.”
The scheme is called MyEnergyCredit and has been launched by Energy UK and comes about thanks to a demand from Ofgem back in February.
Energy UK said that they want customers who have switched suppliers or moved home without leaving a forwarding address to get in touch with their old company if they suspect that they left money in an old account.
So basically, the initiative is: We’ve been sitting on your money for no reason so would you come and get it because we couldn’t be arsed giving it you back at the time.
That said, Energy UK announced changes to try and stop this from happening in the future, but as of now, there’s going to be a two-year deadline for collection of credit. If you don’t claim it, they’ll keep it. The Big Six say they’ll give the money to vulnerable customers, but don’t hold your breath.
Energy UK’s chief executive Angela Knight said: “We are urging former customers to come forward and make a claim. Customers who think they haven’t left a forwarding address or a final meter reading when they moved or switched should contact their old supplier.”
“The web site myenergycredit.com will help you do this. Inevitably, there will be some former customers who will not be found and so the major suppliers are announcing what will happen to credit balances from now on.”
“In future, after two years, the credit balance will be used to help vulnerable customers – and suppliers will make it very clear what is happening.
“By 2018, these new arrangements are expected to add up to around £65m of help to those in difficulties. The suppliers will kick start this process now by donating £38m for the first two years combined.”
Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said: “Today’s industry announcement is an encouraging first step by the six largest energy companies to address Ofgem’s call to reunite customers with their cash. It is good news for consumers and if you think you could be owed money we recommend that you contact your previous supplier.”
“This issue is part of a wider challenge of delivering good customer service that the industry must crack if they are to rebuild customer trust and confidence. Failure to deliver on the initiatives announced today could trigger further action by Ofgem, including enforcement.”
npower are now allowed to continue making telesales calls to everyone after they cleared enough late bills, after Ofgem set them a target. The regulator basically said ‘sort that backlog out or we’re taking your mobile off you, and you can have it back at the end of term.’
The company had a backlog of 96,700 late bills at the end of August. Ofgem had ordered them to get below 100,000, as well as launching an investigation into the energy company. The only good thing about this, is that a load of staff might have got some lovely overtime.
While npower are allowed to make telesales calls, Ofgem haven’t called off the investigation. There’s still the issue of the woeful new billing system which initially saw npower getting three times the amount of complaints than the next company.
Now, the energy firm assure everyone that there’s only 62,000 customers awaiting late bills.
Roger Hattam, npower’s domestic retail director, said: “I’m pleased that we have met our commitment made in June to reach our billing performance target. We’re now billing over 98% of customers on time. However, the journey doesn’t stop here as we’re working hard to make even more improvements.”
Sarah Harrison, senior partner in charge of enforcement said: “Ofgem is encouraged to see that npower has met our targets aimed at reducing late bills and we note their progress on reducing complaint numbers. But this is only a first step to turning round their customer service and billing performance. We will monitor their progress and continue our investigation into the reasons why npower’s problems occurred.”
That’s the vibe The National Grid are giving out, as they’ve asked electricity suppliers to indicate how much more spare capacity they have for peak times this Winter.
It wants to be sure that it can muster through each side of Christmas without plunging us all into blackouts.
This scheme has been brought forward by a year, as the Grid have been coping with plant repairs, fires and closures of main power stations.
The idea that the country could face power cuts is going to put the shit up the government, who are already aware that a less-than-fully operational power generation is likely to cause issues.
As part of the greener incentives brought in, new power plants are taking their sweet time to get up to full capacity, while older, more polluting plants become decommissioned.
The jolly sounding Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of UK market operations, reckons: ”At this stage we don’t know if these reserve services will be needed, but they could provide an additional safeguard.”
Power generators would have to prove they’d be available to provide additional electricity between 7am and 9pm from November to February, the months with the highest demand for the likes of lights and heating.
Still, at least bored couples can get off with each other during Christmas powercuts, which means even more September babies, eh?
EDF Energy have been gits and Ofgem has slapped their legs by ordering them to pay £3 million in compensation to benefit “vulnerable customers” after they’d been found guilty of breaching complaint handling rules.
The investigation followed an increase of more than 30% in the levels of complaints recorded by the company during the the introduction of a new IT system in 2011.
Ofgem found that, between May 2011 and January 2012, EDF didn’t have sufficient or correct procedures in place to adequately deal with, process, record and receive, all complaints in accordance with handling rules.
In English, that means customers had unacceptably long waiting times when calling them to tell EDF they are rubbish.
And if you wanted them to follow up your complaint, that wasn’t happening either.
When customers finally got through, EDF didn’t even make a record of all the required details for the complaints. Basically, customers may as well stuck their hand out of the window and tried to finger the moon.
Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner for enforcement, said: “EDF Energy failed to have sufficiently robust processes in place when they introduced a new IT system and this led to the unacceptable handling of complaints. Their commitment to putting things right and paying £3m to the Citizens Advice Energy Best Deal Extra scheme and the Plymouth Citizen Advice Bureau’s Debt Helpline to benefit vulnerable customers is a step in the right direction to rebuilding consumer trust.”
That sounds alright doesn’t it? Sadly, this won’t ever happen because Labour are doing that thing where they say ‘when we get in power, we’re going to do all this amazing stuff’, when they know that they won’t get voted in, so they don’t have to actually implement anything.
They might as well say: ‘Under a Labour government, honest, hard working people can be certain that each town and city will have a unicorn mayor that shits £50 notes for everyone and each home will be fitted with a milkshake tap.’
Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said the current Government had helped to create a “broken energy market”.
She reckons that Labour will create a tough new regulator who will manhandle power suppliers and have the ability to cancel energy firms’ licences if they repeatedly commit the most “serious and deliberate breaches of their licence conditions which harm the interests of consumers”.
Flint is obviously playing to the gallery here, as everyone knows that we’re all irritated by the way the energy companies are currently doing their business thanks to crappy customer service, mis-selling, whacking prices up when they feel like it and all the rest.
Ofgem have issued 30 fines since 2001, which total in advance of £87m. That’s a lot of money to us, but presumably, energy firms have that kind of money down the back of the sofa in loose change.
Flint says that Labour’s reforms would see the regulator producing an annual scorecard for energy suppliers, reporting on the firms’ performance and identifying problem areas.
“The public have a right to be treated fairly by energy companies,” she said. ”Where firms fail to meet these standards, there must be tough and decisive action. Too often energy companies seem to view the regulator’s fines as a cost of doing business – not as a warning to get their act together.”
“Of course consumers must be compensated – but if energy companies persist in mistreating their customers they must know their licence could be on the line.”
Independent figures claim to show droves of households switching their energy supplier as the price of energy carries on going up.
Approximately 100,000 customers a month have swapped over from the big boys to an indie since last June. Snubbing the likes of npower, SSE, EDF, E.ON, Scottish Power and British Gas.
And according to the latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, 1.3 million customers and 866,000 gas customers have changed suppliers in the last three months of 2013.
And as if to rub it in, by switching his gas and electricity supplier to a company exempt from the charges slapped on domestic bills, Energy Secretary Ed Davey is now spared from paying the average £112-a-year green duty added to most domestic bills after he moved his account to a firm that does not have to pay it.
Maybe he should be doing something about stopping the Big Six being arseholes then, eh readers?
CEO Sam Laidlaw has been laying into Ofgem, saying that their estimate for the amount of profit BG stand to make from the average household this coming year (£106) is wrong.
He said it’s actually closer to £40 – 20% down on last year – and got very shirty indeed. It also didn’t appear to be making any moves to cut energy tariffs. WHAT A SURPRISE.
Laidlaw stroked his Arctic fox trimmed lapels, turned over in his bath of Cristal and said:
The Ofgem analysis is a theoretical analysis. What we are actually publishing today is the actual facts. We have been in discussions with Ofgem for a number of years about this methodology, which has its deficiencies and they recognise that it needs to be changed.’
But quibbling over Ofgem’s calculations doesn’t alter the fact that the warm weather was to blame for their slide in profits, and that they still have a responsibility to lower their prices so that customers don’t end up overpaying and in penury as a result.
Ricardo Lloyd from Which! issued his usual robotic statement, but it doesn’t look like anyone at BG will be listening. He said:
‘British Gas profits are down because of a warm winter, not lower prices.Energy companies must do everything they can to pass on any savings to their customers including falling wholesale and network costs.’
Shadow energy minister Jonathan Reynolds said that the energy market wasn’t working and added:
‘Britain’s hard-pressed bill-payers have seen their energy bills rocket, despite falling wholesale costs, while David Cameron sits on his hands and repeatedly fails to stand up to the big energy companies.’
The results of this CMA profits investigation can’t come soon enough, eh?
BG are blaming the mild weather for the slump. CEO Sam Laidlaw put down his chalice of claret and medium rare Wagyu steak and said:
‘With challenging trading conditions on both sides of the Atlantic in the first half, earnings will be lower in 2014 than in 2013. However, the group is well positioned to return to growth in 2015.’
However, operating profits dropping by a quarter is quite a big deal, isn’t it? And this is despite Ofgem arguing that energy suppliers are making more profit than ever off the average home – it goes up to £106 per household this year.
As the Big Six are coming under increasing pressure over household bills, not to mention the massive investigation into profits by the CMA, things must be getting a bit heated at BG.
Do we feel sorry for them that their profits are down?
Sorry, we can’t hear you for the cheering…