Posts Tagged ‘energy’

sse Its payback time for SSE after winter storm cock ups Ofgem has slapped SSE and UK Power Networks on the wrist for their inept handling of last year’s winter storm damage, and ordered them to pay out an extra £3.3million to the people affected – that’s on top of the £4.7m they’ve already paid.

Ofgem added that they would be doubling the minimum amount energy companies should pay out for storm-a-geddon power fails and warned that energy companies need to pull their fingers out and get their customers re-connected more efficiently.

They said that SSE and UKPN ‘could have done more to get customers reconnected faster and to keep them better updated on what was happening.’

Last year, thousands of SSE customers were reduced to shivering in the dark and huddling around a candle on Christmas Eve, but Ofgem said although SSE and UKPN were specifically and adversely affected by the weather, they were a bit crap at fixing things.

Meanwhile, SSE has reported a loss of 110,000 customers over the last three months. But they’re still not exactly cash strapped. It’s reporting a slight rise in earnings per share.

Will the Big Six profit bandwagon ever be derailed? Only the Competition and Markets Authority knows the answer…

energy Competition watchdog publishes report on energy marketThe folks at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have published their report into the energy market.

Are you all set to have your mind blown? Ready to be told things that will make you scream with glee that someone is on your side?

The CMA have identified opaque pricing, the dominance of utilities and an uncompetitive retail market as the main negative factors of the industry.

Doesn’t that feel amazing? Finally, someone is sticking up for us all! They’ve translated our feelings into a succinct report! And, obviously, we should hand the CMA a degree in stating the bleedin’ obvious.

Their investigation into the energy market isn’t finished yet and they’ll publish a final one before Christmas Day in 2015.

“We are looking to identify the underlying causes, at both wholesale and retail level, which could be leading to the widespread concerns that have surrounded this market in recent years – including rising energy bills, service quality, profitability and uncertainty over future investment,” said Roger Witcomb, chairman of the Energy Market Investigation Group.

The CMA statement said they’d spotted “four candidate theories of harm” which explain how market characteristics were adversely affecting competition. Shall we break them down?

- Opaque prices and low-level liquidity in wholesale power and gas create barriers to entry in retail and generation.

   - Vertically integrated electricity companies harm the competitive position of non-integrated firms to the detriment of customers.

   - Market power in electricity generation leads to higher prices.

   - “Energy suppliers face weak incentives to compete in retail markets, due in particular to inactive customers, supplier behaviour and/or regulatory interventions.”

So in short, the Big Six aren’t keen on telling us how they come up with their prices, there’s not enough competition to get the prices down, it is too hard for new energy companies to start up and people can’t be bothered to switch suppliers because they’re all rubbish. You knew that. Everyone knew that.

“This is a market which is very complex so it is important at an early stage to focus the investigation on the most relevant issues,” said Witcomb.

energy Ofgem say not switching energy companies is costing you £200mThe people at Ofgem have done a study which says the 9 million people renting in the UK are losing out to the tune of £200 million. They say renters are less likely to shop around, so they’re getting stiffed on deals.

This data was gathered from Ofgem’s incredibly exciting ’2014 Consumer Engagement survey’ which showed that three-quarters of tenants have never switched supplier and one in five isn’t aware that they are able to.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem’s CEO, said: “The number of British households renting stands at 9 million and counting, yet research has shown that this group is not shopping around for their energy, and missing out on savings of up to £200.”

Their maths, not ours, just in case any of you lot start moaning.

Weirdly, it seems that there’s a lot of people out there who think they are stuck with the energy supplier who provide their utilities on the day they move in. Even if your landlord takes care of the bills and your rent is all-inclusive, you can still shop around and ask them to go cheaper if you want.

This is all part of Ofgem’s “Be an Energy Shopper” campaign, which hopes to help consumers realise that they aren’t in a situation that is akin to an energy company chaining them to a radiator and waiting for Stockholm Syndrome to kick in.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, said: “These findings are worrying, particularly given the dramatic rise in the number of people having to rent as they can’t afford to get onto the property ladder. Renters need all the help they can get to keep costs down and switching energy provider is an extremely easy way to reduce their monthly bills.”

“Ofgem’s campaign to clear up tenants’ misconceptions about their rights is a step in the right direction, but more should be done. We call on landlords and letting agents to provide all new tenants with information on their current energy provider and remind them of their right to switch. This will empower renters to make an informed choice about who provides their energy.”

Surprise! npower complaints double!

July 10th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

npower logo Surprise! npower complaints double!You’ll probably die of shock when you find out that complaints about npower and Scottish Power doubled in the first quarter of 2014, so we can only pray that you were sitting down when you found out.

It seems new billing systems have caused all kinds of problems for customers, but really, there would’ve been complaints either way because, especially in the case of npower, it looks like they’re actively trolling everyone now.

Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland said complaints about npower rose from 306.8 for every 100,000 customers to 592, in the last quarter of 2013. In fact, complaints about all suppliers increased in the first quarter. They really couldn’t care less could they? They can afford the fines and no-one is looking like they’re going to do anything about it.

Have the Big Six got blackmail files on Cameron and Clegg? Dirty Polaroids and taped conversations with sex-workers or something? That’s the only explanation for their Teflon state of mind.

Last month, Ofgem warned npower to sort out their billing balls-ups by the close of August, or stop all telesales activity. Ofgem are also investigating npower’s failings as a whole, but you get the impression that between the CA and Ofgem, npower will work a way around it.

The chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, said: “The knock-on effect of poor billing systems can turn household budgets upside down. Many people do not have the spare cash to cover the cost of a large bill that suddenly lands on their doorstep.”

“While we recognise npower is receiving more complaints because it is starting to get over some of the earlier issues, it needs to do more to stop consumers’ problems escalating. Offering repayment plans and discussing ways they can help consumers will nip issues in the bud and remove the need to complain.”

“Scottish Power has an opportunity to learn from other suppliers’ billing system failures and address these problems now so more consumers won’t have cause for complaint.”

“A rise in complaints about all suppliers is concerning. Suppliers won’t win the trust of customers back unless they show they understand what consumers need, recognise the financial pressures many people are under and are able to sort out problems quickly. This is something that all suppliers can act on.”

We’re going to pay for Britain’s repairs

July 1st, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

energy Were going to pay for Britains repairsBritain’s infrastructure is looking a bit tatty, so our beloved government have to carry out an independent assessment of the ability of us lot, to see if we can afford to cough-up the extra £250bn which will be added to our household bills modernise the things that give us water and energy.

Above inflation increases means we’re all going to get hammered, especially people on lower incomes.

It will be of zero surprise to anyone with at least one eye and a handful of rudimentary braincells that Britain needs major upgrades to services like energy, water, communications and transport.

The government think that energy bills will rise by 18% by 2030, because obviously, they haven’t gone up enough already.

Margaret Hodge, Labour MP said: “No one seems to be sticking up for the consumer in all this. This is of particular concern given that the poorest households are hit hardest by increases in bills. Poorer households spend more of their incomes on household bills relative to richer households, meaning that funding infrastructure through bills is more regressive than doing so through taxation.”

Hodge’s committee’s report – the excitingly titled ‘Investment: the impact on consumer bills’, Hodge said: “A staggering £375bn of investment is needed to replace the country’s ageing infrastructure, help meet policy commitments such as climate change targets, and meet the long-term needs of a growing population. It is the consumer – through their various bills – that is expected to fund at least two-thirds of this investment where the infrastructure is financed, built, owned and operated by private companies. Currently, consumers rely solely on government and regulators to protect their interests. But it doesn’t take much nous to work out that this is going to have a tough impact on the consumer.”

The short version is this: Wages aren’t going up, but everything else is.

The Treasury countered arguments against them and said: “The country will pay a heavy price if we don’t invest in the infrastructure essential for our future. The National Infrastructure Plan provides unprecedented certainty about what those investments are and making sure they are built in a way that delivers value for consumers and taxpayers is at the centre of it. The analysis in the PAC report fails to make a proper assessment of this.”

You can only assume that the only ‘unprecedented certainty’ in all of this is that those who win the contracts to take on all this work will have a strong connection to the Prime Minister and his pals, because that’s how all the big jobs are divvied out.

energy bills 300x300 ‘Once and for all’ energy investigation begins It’s a day of reckoning for the money grabbing energy companies, as Ofgem has asked the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate their profits and prices.

The referral means there’ll be some serious explaining to do and the investigation is due to start immediately.

*rubs hands with glee*

Every member of the Big Six – British Gas, SSE, Npower, EDF, Scottish Power and E. On – will be crapping themselves as the probe tries to determine ‘once and for all’ whether they are making excess profits.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem chief executive, said: ‘Prices have risen more than they should have, we believe, over the last few years. Profits have risen, prices have risen, margins have risen.
Competition is not working well, consumers are probably paying more than they should have and we need to put in step a process that is going to force competition to drive costs down.’

The investigation will take about a year, and if they find that the Big Six have ripped customers off, the companies will be broken up, and all those energy fat cats will have to go on the scrounge.

If the companies were right, and wholesale prices, energy infrastructure and all that jazz were driving the price rises all along, we’ll have to find something else to moan about.

But something tells us they’ll only have to take one look at all those Chateaubriand dinners and enormous pay packets, and the decision will be clear…

emoticon Smiley faces can be used to help cut energy bills Because we’re all stupid apes, apparently our subconscious responds to smiley face or sad face emoticons. And equally, we all have an innate desire to keep up with the Jones’.

A study by Sustainable Homes used both emojis and good old fashioned shame to encourage people to use less energy – giving them a smiley if they’d saved and a sad face if they’d left the iron, the hairdryer and the oven on all night.

And it worked.

In the study – which recruited 450 households over 14 housing associations in England – people saved up to £80 on their bills when they were shown the emoticons based on their household energy use.

They were sent smileys if they used less energy than other similar households, and sad faces if they were using more. The ones that were using more were so ashamed that they soon started to use less, to keep within the norm.

Andrew Eagles of Sustainable Homes said: ”These findings will be of great interest to anyone concerned with cutting energy bills – which, of course, is most of us. We know that people are always keen to save money, but what this study uncovers is that their natural desire for approval is at least as important, and probably more so.”

So sod the scare stories about climate change – just compare people to their neighbours and watch those meters stop spinning…

Shock as Big Six complaints soar

June 18th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

article 1725351 07264249000005DC 817 468x286 300x183 Shock as Big Six complaints soarYou’re never going to believe this – the number of complaints against the Big Six energy firms have gone through the roof to new records in the last quarter as customers vent spleen over lousy service from our beloved energy companies.

They really are just trolling everyone now aren’t they?

They received 1.7 million complaints, which is the highest number in a single quarter since records began, up 15% on the same time last year.

The swine at npower received 83 complaints for every 1,000 customers in the first quarter of 2014 (they topped the league). The same time last year, they were getting 49 complaints per 1,000. Looks like they’re trying to double the amount of complaints, eh? Meanwhile, SSE, British Gas and E.On all received roughly 30 complaints per 1,000 customers. Scottish Power received the fewest with 13 for every 1,000.

Of course, Which!!! had something to say on the matter.

Their executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Yet again millions of customers are being let down by poor service from the Big Six energy companies. This has to change.”

“If they want to improve the low level of consumer trust in the energy market, suppliers must up their game now, rather than wait for the results of a competition review.”

Now, for the laughs. An Energy UK spokesman said, without a trace of irony: “Most customers are happy with their energy provider. But, in an industry which serves 27 million households, sometimes things can go wrong. Most issues just take just a call to fix even though all problems – large and small – are lumped together. But all problems, no matter how minor, are important and if a customer has any concerns about their service, they should contact their supplier as soon as they can.”

“No one wants to see complaints rise, but the industry uses this information to improve its service. Anyone with a problem needs to contact their supplier before they do anything else.”

Energy switch time to be cut in half

June 16th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

energy Energy switch time to be cut in halfOfgem have confirmed that the time it takes to ditch one energy company and sign-up with another will be cut in half. They’ve sat everyone from the industry down and switching times will fall to three days plus a 14-day cooling off period from December 31st.

From 2018, we’ll all be able to do next-day switching.

In itself, the move isn’t a bad one. If you think you can save money by losing one company and getting in bed with another, this is good news.

Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said: “Consumers can change their bank in seven days, their mobile phone in just a couple, but have to wait significantly longer to switch their energy supplier. We hope this will give consumers more confidence to get out there and start shopping around.”

At the moment, it takes over a month to complete the process. The energy companies need to update their IT so this can come into play.

Ann Robinson at uSwitch.com, thinks this is a good idea, saying: “Today’s announcement is exactly the sort of game-changer that is needed to encourage consumers to engage with the energy market. By speeding up the time it takes to switch energy supplier, households will feel the benefits of moving to a new tariff even sooner.”

“With half of households yet to switch their energy supplier, it is clear there are barriers that need to be broken down. For many of these, it will be a question of confidence and fear of the unknown.”

However, the thing staring everyone in the face (everyone, in this instance, doesn’t include anyone from the energy sector, Ofgem or uSwitch, it seems) is that, if all the energy companies are ripping everyone off and constantly hiking up their prices, a fast turnaround time is little more than giving consumers the opportunity to get to know more dickheads, quickly.

It’s a bit like getting the option to recover from a cold quicker, in return for getting an STD.

Are green energy subsidies a load of bunkum?

June 12th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

wind turbines Are green energy subsidies a load of bunkum?Ed Davey is being shouted at by Which!!! They’re telling him that his proposed subsidy scheme will encourage the building of higher-cost energy projects (offshore wind farms and the like) that might not actually deliver value for money.

The rest of the country meanwhile, is collectively rolling their eyes and handing out degrees for stating the bloody obvious.

Either way, Which!!! has written to the secretary of state for energy and climate change saying that his plans for electricity market reform “could result in expensive generation projects being prioritised over cheaper, more cost-effective options”.

Of course, Which!!! are insistent that they support green initiatives, but doesn’t want to see the Government’s Contract for Difference (CfD) being rolled out in a way that is not only flawed, but needlessly expensive.

“It is vital that any measure that adds costs to consumers’ bills is closely scrutinised at a time when energy prices are the top financial concern for consumers. Whilst there has been a lot of welcome attention given to tackling the immediate cost of energy bills, Which!!! believes that more attention needs to be done to address energy costs in the long term,” said Richard Lloyd, Which!!! executive director.

He added that: “The absence of full competition from the Contracts for Difference process at the outset risks priority being given to investment that may not deliver value for money for customers.”

“In our view it is not appropriate to shield offshore wind developers from competitive cost pressures … there are a wide range of costs across offshore wind projects but accurate cost information is hard to come by. Allocating subsidy competitively is the best way of revealing this information.”

Gas prices dropped, but not your bills

June 11th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

energy bills 300x300 Gas prices dropped, but not your billsThe Big Six are under fire again, and have clearly reached a level of trolling the British public not seen since Vanessa Feltz had a job.

It has emerged that the price the energy companies pay for gas has halved in six months – the cheapest they’ve had it for four years. They’re also paying less for electricity as well. So, what about everyone’s bills getting cheaper?

Don’t be stupid.

Ofgem have contacted the companies asking to know why everyone’s still being charged so much. Of course, everyone else is pretty angered by it too.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady spat: “The big energy firms are taking their customers for a ride. The Government should stand up for consumers in the face of this naked greed. Instead, the Chancellor has shied away from taking on the energy giants.”

However, some people don’t like trade unions so much that they’ll, for the sake of an argument, side with the energy companies.

MP Ian Lavery, a member of the Commons energy select committee, said: “This is a classic example of the way energy companies treat the general public with the utmost contempt. They are basically robbing people of hundreds of pounds every year, and it is time the Government took action.”

Ofgem chief executive, Dermot Nolan, currently in the process of writing some stern letters in his neatest handwriting, thinks that our trust has been ‘undermined’, added: “I’m very concerned these clear and sustained falls in the price of electricity and gas have not been passed on by the majority of suppliers.”

“I would expect the threat of losing market share to encourage suppliers to pass on sustained reductions… as soon as possible. If that is not happening, it could be seen as further evidence that competition is not working for consumers as well as it should be.”

In real terms, it looks like the average household spend on gas and electricity will go up by 3%.

Fear not though. Our blessed Government do have an answer for those of you who feel like you’re being ripped off by the Big Six. In short, if you don’t like it, change to a different provider. It’s like choosing which illness you want, isn’t it?

Smart meters not top of the pops

June 9th, 2014 6 Comments By Thewlis

electricity meter 300x187 Smart meters not top of the popsSometimes plans don’t come together, and that’s what’s happened with the Government’s shiny idea about putting smart meters in every home by 2020. It’s not that they’ve run out of money-despite the estimated £11bn cost- it’s because we don’t actually want them.

New figures from The Smart Meter Central Delivery Body (SMCDB), the organisation set up to drive public support for the devices, found that while 84% of people had heard of smart meters, less than half of us- just 44%- expressed interest in having one installed in their home. Clearly, the SMCDB has been excelling at ‘driving public support’.

The whole point of smart meters is to enable customers to monitor energy usage in real time. This will not only allow people to see just how much energy they are using at any given tim (and hopefully encourage them to turn lights off), thereby reducing energy usage, but will also be capable of sending automatic readings back to energy suppliers, to enable accurate billing. Imagine how shocked energy companies will be once they cannot keep you in permanent overpayment owing to estimated bills eh…

Nevertheless, energy companies are obliged to attempt to install the meters in all customers’ homes, but consumers do have a right to refuse them. Given the latest findings, that’s 56% of us likely to refuse.

The problem seems to be that more than half of all consumers simply do not trust any energy company. And you can hardly blame them. Sacha Deshmukh, SMCDB’s chief executive, said suspicion of energy firms related to issues such as inaccurate bills, the very thing that smart metering could solve.

“Antiquated systems for recording energy use and managing billing are no longer fit for purpose. Households need to be able to take control of their energy use and bills,” he said.

“For this to happen, the national smart meter roll-out is the essential transformation of the technology we use to buy energy. It will create newly empowered consumers, and increase trust in those who sell us gas and electricity.”

He also insisted that mistrust in itself would not hinder the roll-out as “customers trusted individual engineers”, which seems to contradict his own findings, not to mention sounding a bit desperate.

There are around 1m meters currently in use, mostly installed by British Gas. The full roll-out is due to begin late next year, having already suffered delays while data and communications systems are developed and put in place. Assuming SMCDB can convince us all to change our minds by then…

gas bill1 217x300 Old couple gets £49,000 gas bill shocker from NPower
Michael and Pat Savage live in a teeny weeny bungalow in Bridlington, so imagine their shock when they received a gas bill for £49 grand.

Obviously this is some kind of butterfingered incompetent mistake from the doofuses (doofi?) at NPower, but incredibly they had been trying to stick by it. Before they received the bill, The Savages got a phone call from the company telling them to prepare themselves for an extremely large bill, and advised them to cancel their monthly £52 direct debit, or their account would be completely wiped out.

(Is it me, or does that seem REALLY WEIRD?)

The bill arrived, with a letter advising Mr Savage to increase his Direct Debit to £7000(!). When Mr Savage called NPower, the call centre lackey was as shocked as he was, and told him that not even Wembley Stadium would be able to run up a gas bill like that. They told him it probably had something to do with a new meter that was installed last year, and not at all anything to do with them being complete idiots.

Meanwhile these poor pensioners have blood pressure through the roof and are afraid to open the door in case the bailiffs come. But NPower said:

‘We are very sorry to hear about the problems Mr and Mrs Savage are having. We have put a stop on the account while we investigate.’

As they’re the most complained about energy company in the Big Six, maybe they could also try to investigate why they’re so crap.

npower are sending bills to ex-customers

May 28th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

npower logo npower are sending bills to ex customersThose awful swine at npower are at it again, annoying everyone and generally being shady as hell. After fines, being the most complained about and customers fining them for being inept, they really know how to get on everyone’s nerves.

So what are they up to now?

Well, npower are being criticised for sending huge bills to customers who are no longer dealing with the Big 6 energy firm. In some cases, npower are sending bills a whole 12 months after customers have left.

It seems, thanks to npower failing to get their bills out in a timely manner (what a massive, massive surprise), that these bills are being sent under the proviso of being ‘late’. So, in short, npower are penalising customers for their own mistakes. Huge bills are landing on doormats and npower are basically shrugging about the whole thing and saying ‘oh, we were supposed to give you this ages ago… hope you don’t mind coughing up loads of money you don’t have!’

There’s now pressure on npower to reduce or completely wipe the bills or you can bet that Ofgem will be called in to sort all this out. That’s because, under the regulator’s rules, when you switch energy companies, your old supplier must make “all reasonable effort” to close your account down within 6 weeks. Ofgem are currently reviewing npower as it is, for a series of other issues.

One small mercy is that, if you’ve left, at least npower won’t be able to cut you off.

If you want to complain, visit npower’s complaints page or, if you’ve no faith in that process, there’s always the Ombudsman services who can help.

smart meter teaser Smart meters are so smart. Unless you live in a flatPerhaps you’ve got more pressing things on your mind, like wondering how you’re going to pay your utility bills this winter. But if you cast your mind back to a few years ago when everyone got excited about installing Smart Meters, you might remember that Ofgem wanted them rolled out across the board so you can see your energy usage and (haha!) save money. (By being cold).

And you probably will get a smart meter, unless you’re one of the millions of people who live in a flat, that is. Then you’ll have to wait until 2020. Or you might not get one at all, at this rate.

The problem is that smart meters work off something called the Home Area Network (HAN) which is a wireless network that connects to in-home displays.

Except it doesn’t work everywhere. So if you live in a tall building or block of flats, you’re gubbed, because Ofgem has said it’s ‘not plausible’ to extend the network to cover apartment blocks and high rise buildings.

Critics say that the Department for Energy and Climate Change, whose ‘smart’ idea this was, should get involved to find a solution. However, it’s still not clear whether smart meters will actually make a difference to anybody or anything. And it looks like there are lots and lots of ‘difficult’ buildings with no access and no wireless reception.

Oh well, just carry on going up a ladder with a torch and watching all those numbers whizzing past. The DECC will get back to you in 2020…