Posts Tagged ‘energy’
However, as ever with new projects, there’s some bad news.
The new contracts will include offshore wind farms and the conversion of some coal-powered plants which will eventually run on biomass. Energy Secretary Ed Davey is confident that these projects will help to power up to 3 million homes. ‘Help’ and ‘up to’ sticking out like a sore thumb there.
Davey also thinks that they’ll attract £12bn in private investment, which is not to be sniffed at.
The new energy projects will be offshore at Outer Moray Firth, offshore at Liverpool Bay, a conversion at Selby, offshore north of Cromer, offshore at Hornsea off the East Yorkshire coast, a biomass conversion at Ashington, Northumberland, an extension offshore off Walney island and at Teeside, biomass with combined heat and power in Middlesbrough.
These eight projects will all get one of the government’s Contracts for Difference (CfDs), which basically guarantee prices for renewable energy suppliers. They may cost up to £1bn each year in subsidies.
“We are confident that the eight will go ahead, but if a company decides not to go ahead…. there will be another one queuing up behind,” Davey told the Today programme. ”These investments are critical to make sure we have got secure, clean energy. The hope, clearly, is to try and rid the country of the need to get energy from Ukraine, now that Russia is throwing its weight around.
The bad news is that it’ll cost us, adding (at least) 2% to household energy bills by 2020. While energy companies start announcing price freezes and the like, the money will be coming out of our pockets from elsewhere.
Today is Earth Day, where people say things about our planet that sound like the spewings of a dreadful hippie, sharing photos of hummingbirds and waterfalls. They of course, share them through exactly the kind of gadgets, to be read on other devices, which gobble electricity like Pacman.
And so, in a bid to seem more kindly, energy suppliers in the UK have made some promises. To be greener? To be cheaper? Don’t be stupid. They’ve announced that they want to halve the length of time it takes us to switch providers.
Instead of an average of five weeks, it’ll now be around a fortnight.
In a statement, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced that the proposals have been referred to Ofgem for final approval. Energy secretary Ed Davey reckons that this will help everyone save money and “improve the poorly performing energy markets”. Of course, most people can’t be arsed switching providers, preferring to complain about everything, ever.
It should be looked at though. A number of reports have shown just how much money stands to be saved if people switch. One set of stats said that as much as £1.5 billion a year could be saved if we all switched to a more suitable tariff.
Davey added: “I would urge people who want a better deal on their energy bills to switch now – don’t wait for these latest improvements to happen. Over 2 million people switched energy supplier between October last year and March this year, as competition is now hotting up.”
“Some of the new smaller suppliers are cutting prices and forcing bigger players to respond, so check out today’s deals.”
They’d also failed to give some companies any notice that their contract was due to end, which meant that customers weren’t able to shop around for a better deal.
The arm of British Gas has already paid out around £1.3m to affected firms, but has a further £3.45m to pay into an energy efficiency fund, as well as a £800,000 penalty. If British Gas Business hadn’t co-operated with investigations, the fine would have been much more.
Ofgem found that the company had been pulling a fast one for five years, which seem to be down to a fault in their computer systems.
“The ability for consumers to switch easily and fairly is key to a well-functioning energy market,” said Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner in charge of enforcement. ”In these cases British Gas Business failed these consumers who were wrongly blocked from switching, many of them small businesses, and denied others the chance to switch to a better deal at the end of their contract.”
The managing director of British Gas Business, Stephen Beynon, said: ”We’re sorry these errors occurred and have worked swiftly to change our computer systems and processes, putting controls in place to stop this happening again. We take any failure to meet our obligations very seriously and will ensure that the new energy efficiency fund we have set up will be a real help to hundreds of small businesses”
Energy companies are just taking the piss now aren’t they? Complaints about the UK’s energy firms have rocketed to the highest level on record in the first three months of 2014, going up by 224% according to the energy sector’s ombudsman.
Between January and March, there were 10,638 complaints. Compare that to the same period last year, where the figure was 3,277. Compare that to the small matter of there being 17,960 complaints in total in 2013, and it looks like we’re going to see record levels of gripes from customers. Crucially, are the energy companies going to even care?
The main concerns for customers is that they’re not receiving bills, angry about billing charges and unhappy with poor customer service.
This comes on the back of regulator Ofgem announcing that they would be referring the whole of the energy sector to the Competition and Markets Authority for an in-depth investigation.
The Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: “Consumer frustration and dissatisfaction is something that we hear about every day, and we welcome any attempts by Ofgem to make the energy market fairer.”
“With energy complaints trebling in the first quarter of this year and problems relating to billing the greatest concern, increased transparency is something that should be addressed.”
According to the company, Nest will learn how you use the heating in your home, thereby saving your energy and reducing your bills. Nest have other smart products as well. Last month, they released a fire alarm that knows the difference between you burning your toast to your sofa being ablaze.
Maybe Nest will kit out entire houses and have them voiced by Pierce Brosnan which will seduce you while you’re in the bath?
Nest has been selling well in the States, with 1 million of them flying off the shelves, with our American cousins apparently saving 20% on their heating bills. Of course, with our Big Six refusing to help us out with our bills, it looks like we’ll have to go elsewhere in a bid to get our outgoings down. However, the bad news in that respect is that Nest have partnered up with Npower, which means some of you will have trust issues.
Lionel Paillet, Nest’s general manager for Europe, said their gizmo isn’t like the other smart-thermostats: ”It’s comparing apples and oranges. The Nest thermostat is really learning, it knows your preferences, it helps you keep comfortable, not sacrificing your comfort for energy savings.”
“You don’t have to programme it – programmes are cumbersome and don’t really work. The more you use it, the more it learns,” added Paillet.
Nest is on sale today and will set you back £180 on its own, or, if you want it installed, £250.
British Gas has been accused of trying to put the frighteners on people, after gasbag Centrica boss Sam Laidlow warned that an investigation into the energy market may lead to power blackouts.
He claimed that potential investors will be put off from backing an updated energy infrastructure if Ofgem started shaking up the energy industry with its two-year investigation.
His reasoning is that the potential breaking up of the Big Six would create uncertainty and decrease investment in the energy market, leading to what he called a ‘substantial risk’ of outages and blackouts. Ooh, we’re so SCARED.
Obviously, this sounds like a lot of desperate, self-serving bollocks, and everyone in the world has come out to tell him so, including uSwitch, Ofgem, the Tories, the Lib Dems, energy secretary Ed Davey and the Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, who said:
‘Nobody will be fooled by scaremongering from the energy companies. What matters for investors is long-term certainty on returns, not short-term gains based on overcharging.’
So what’s Mr Laidlow got to hide, we wonder? Could it be that he doesn’t want his £2.2m a year wage packet taken away from him? I mean, what’s going to happen if he can’t afford to fill his hot tub with Dom Perignon any more?
Ofgem are, once again, going after the energy companies, saying that they’re making excess profits and pulling a fast one and ripping off customers. However, Ofgem haven’t troubled The Big Six much, so this time, they’re tagteaming with the Competition and Markets Authority who have been asked to launch a full investigation.
The aim is to threaten The Big Six with the fact that there’s a very real chance they could be broken up.
Ofgem pointed out that retail profits from the UK’s largest six energy suppliers had gone from £233m in 2009 to £1.1bn in 2012 “with no clear evidence of suppliers becoming more efficient in reducing their own costs”. They continued: “Further evidence would be required to determine whether firms have had the opportunity to earn excess profits.”
The regulator also found “new evidence that prices rise faster when costs rise than they reduce when costs fall” and that suppliers were “consistently setting higher prices for consumers who have not switched” and that there us evidence of ”possible tacit coordination reflected in the timing and size of price announcements”, which “reduces competition and worsens outcomes for consumers”.
Dermot Nolan, Ofgem chief executive, said: “Ofgem believes a referral offers the opportunity to once and for all clear the air and decide if there are any further barriers which are preventing competition from bearing down as hard as possible on prices.”
So what do the businesses think about it all? As ever, they’re firing threats back at everyone. Centrica warned that even by being investigated, it could result in blackouts because it would mean less investments in new power plants.
Ofgem aren’t phased: “Given these problems Ofgem believes a referral to the CMA is timely and necessary because CMA’s more extensive powers can address any long-term structural barriers to competition. A market investigation would conclusively determine whether vertical integration is in consumers’ interests or whether there should be more separation between the largest companies’ supply businesses and generation arms.”
Hands up if you think this is going to result in anything good for the customer.
SSE have announced that they’re going to freeze prices until (at least) 2016 and probably want some kind of medal for it. Naturally, this news will be met with a huge shrug because, if a company keeps whacking their prices up year-on-year, no-one is going to be thrilled when they announce that they won’t be putting them up for a bit.
So how are SSE doing this? Well, they’re trying to cut costs and one sure fire way of saving money is sacking a load of people. 500 people will be axed from the firm and SSE have said they’re not going to spend as much money on the building of offshore windfarms.
Chief executive of SSE, Alistair Phillips-Davies, said: “We’re responding to the questions that have been asked of us with a positive agenda for customers, including the longest ever unconditional energy price freeze. To help us achieve that, we’re making sure our own house is in order by streamlining and simplifying our business.”
Of course, SSE saying they’re responsible for the ‘longest ever price freeze’ goes to 2016, while EDF are currently offering a fixed price until March 2017.
“This provides peace of mind at a time when more than three quarters of people are expecting prices to go up next year, 2 and over 80% of people are worried about energy price rises in the next two years,” the company said.
If only the energy companies had been so kind during the recent recession years.
By 2020, your energy bill will look like a phone number. That’s the latest news from Which! who are predicting that energy companies will have to spend £118bn on updating ageing infrastructure between now and then.
And are the energy fat cats going to take that out of their sherry bill or are we going to pay for it? Well, what do YOU think?
Which! has written to the Treasury prior to next week’s budget with a stark warning that the upgrade to the UK’s energy infrastructure could make bills skyrocket – leaving households with an average of £2000 a year to pay. And that’s a conservative estimate. If energy prices go up, we might be looking at a whole lot more.
Consumer firebrand Richard Lloyd has his pilot light set to stun, and said:
‘I don’t think consumers know that this is heading their way and that decision has already been made by the Government. This is a massive chunk potentially on everyone’s bills. This means one thing: that household bills are set to rise, and to rise for many people very steeply for the foreseeable future.’
Which! are campaigning for a full investigation into energy pricing. Meanwhile, we consumers will be quaking in our boots when the budget is announced, praying that we don’t get shafted even further.
Looks like energy companies are still the country’s worst offenders- on just about everything. This week, new research from uSwitch.com shows that energy providers are not just charging us an arm and a leg they are doing so incorrectly, with almost two in ten households (19%) being incorrectly billed by their energy company within the last two years.
With 19% of households incorrectly billed- and a total of 11% who have had this happen more than once, only HMRC is considered more inept at getting bills right, with Council Tax, mortgage companies and insurers all coming up roses over the last eight years of the survey. While customers who have been overcharged have been in the news recently, as the energy companies hold on to refundable cash, 39% of those surveyed, equivalent to 10.14 million people, were surprised with an unexpectedly large bill following a ‘bill adjustment’, with the average extra amount owed being £146. More than one in ten (14%) have unexpectedly ended up owing £200 – £400, while 7% have ended up owing over £400.
And when extra amounts are incorrect? It is taking even longer for energy companies to sort out the problem- the average time is now just under two months, up from one month a year ago.
Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “Consumers are typically paying over £100 a month for gas and electric, so the fact that they cannot rely on the accuracy of their bills is simply unacceptable. With energy bills accounting for the largest chunk of household expenditure after rent and mortgage payments, billing blunders can leave consumers feeling frustrated, susceptible and out of pocket.”
The Big Six energy suppliers have been hounded for a while and they’ve reacted badly so far, threatening Britain with a blackout. Now, they’re going to be extra annoyed as they are going to have to disclose long-term power prices, twice daily, from next month, thanks to new rules from Ofgem.
If they don’t comply, they’ll be penalised.
“Almost two million customers are with independent suppliers and we expect these reforms to help these suppliers and any new entrants to grow,” Andrew Wright, Ofgem’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Energy minister, Ed Davey said British Gas might have to be broken up to put an end to excessive profit margins and Ofgem, the Office for Fair Trading and the Competition and Markets Authority have all been investigating the competition in Britain’s energy retail market.
“Ofgem continues to think there is an issue around liquidity and transparency in the wholesale energy market,” said Peter Atherton, utilities analyst at Liberum Capital. ”But whether (these rules) solve any of the problems is questionable.”
It’s a messy situation and it doesn’t look like anyone’s going to be getting cheaper bills any time soon.
Rick Haythornthwaite – the chairman of Centrica (who own British Gas) and possibly owner of a fictional surname – has said that the political debate over energy prices risks “the lights going out” in the whole of Britain and that blackouts were ”looming much larger” and no longer the “figment of a scaremonger’s imagination”.
What’s caused this jumpy warning? Well, for a kick off, Ed Miliband has said Labour plans to freeze energy prices if they win the 2015 election and energy secretary Ed Davey has suggested that Centrica should be broken up.
“I think the reputation of Britain as a place in which to invest is under threat and the time to correct that is now, not after the 2015 election, by which time the possibility of the lights going out in Britain will be looming much larger,” he said. “And I don’t see this as the figment of a scaremonger’s imagination. I think right now we’ve got to restart collaborative, constructive dialogue around these key issues; we cannot afford to wait, hostilities have got to cease.”
Sam Laidlaw, another bigwig at Centrica, added: “We firmly believe that any form of price control in a competitive market is not the answer and is not in the best interests of customers, and this has been clearly demonstrated by experience in other markets. Such proposals create both short-term uncertainty for all energy suppliers and longer-term additional costs for customers.”
Things are tough at British Gas. They’ve lost 462,000 customers since 2012, with a whopping 100,000 ditching them in the past two months. Profits are down and the company have been raising tariffs. All the energy companies, currently, look worse than bankers and trust is low.
However, with people like Laidlaw on £5million a year, it seems there’ll be little sympathy for political hostilities toward the energy sector, especially if it seems like they’re ready to switch the lights off in Britain, in a sulk.
Hurray! Good energy news at last! Actually, you might want to sit down for this one. We’re so used to getting mightily shafted by energy companies that the idea of them giving our money back to us seems very strange indeed, but unbelievably, it’s actually happening.
Yes, after EDF energy’s decision to refund credit balances if you pay by Direct Debit, five out of the Big Six have agreed to follow suit. So if you’ve got a credit balance of £5 or more, they’ll refund you automatically. British Gas, E-On, EDF, NPower and SSE are all on board. Only the tight wads at Scottish Power are reluctant to lower the threshold for automatic refunds.
Of course, your energy supplier will still try to ‘suggest’ that you roll it over to your next bill, and you’ll need to provide a meter reading before your annual energy review. But it sure beats having to make formal requests to claw back any excess you’ve paid. And it means your hard earned cash will no longer languish in the bulging coffers of the Big Six, racking up interest.
Which! calculate that 55% of energy customers pay by Direct Debit, and that 56% are in credit to the tune of an average of £161. Which means a nice Spring pay out for quite a lot of people.
But although it’s tempting to go and spend it on new clothes, or a slap up meal at the Harvester, maybe we should put it towards something useful – like next winter’s astronomical energy bills…
According to Which!!!, if you’re one of the 3.9m households who are on tariffs that charge different rates for using energy at different times of day, you could well be left “significantly out of pocket” because of inaccurate clocks on your meter.
It seems that people have been warning Which!!! that, for people on tariffs like Economy 7 where you are charged less for using power at night, customers are being overcharged.
Gary Day told Which!!! that his meter was inaccurate, as were those with three of his neighbours. Swalec, as a result, refunded them £2,300. He said: ”I have only checked four meters and every single one of them was wrong. The problem is most consumers don’t go around checking, and we are at a disadvantage because of that.”
A Which!!! spokesperson said: “Having a faulty clock on your energy meter could leave you hundreds of pounds out of pocket. It’s the supplier’s responsibility to ensure they are correct so if you suspect there might be a fault then contact your energy company.”
Meanwhile, over at Ofgem, a spokesman said: “If consumers suspect that their electricity meter is faulty their supplier is required to investigate and make best efforts to resolve the problem. If necessary, as a final option the supplier will make arrangements for the meter to be verified by a meter examiner appointed by National Measurement Office.”
Have you been charged for gas you didn’t use? It’s happening as people are being charged hundreds of pounds for gas meters on their premises, even though they’re only using electricity. Worse still, is that people wanting their gas meters removed are faced with (up to) £400 bills to have them taken away.
It seems that some companies are charging households a fixed daily fee for simply having a certain type of gas meter. The money covers the supplier’s cost of billing and metering. That’d be the cost of counting no gas being used, even in houses that are disconnected.
It seems these bills are a new thing. Reports have said that people weren’t getting these bills at all, but are now getting nasty surprises and being asked to fork out £100 a year for something they’ve never used.
Scottish Power will charge you up to £400 to get rid of your ghost meter, while E.on will ask you for £82 for the privilege.
It seems the best thing to do is to change your provider to someone like British Gas, Npower or SSE who remove gas meters for free (but have other problematic attitudes to billing, so shop around).
A spokesperson for the Association of Meter Operators says: “Removing a meter from someone’s house and capping supply there should only take about half an hour and cost no more than £50. The operative will then return at some point in the next couple of years and decide whether they need to dig up the road and cut the supply at street level — this costs more, but if you are no longer a customer it’s unlikely they could come after you for the cost.”