Posts Tagged ‘gas’
It’s one of those things that savvy people do- you buy your gas and electricity from the same supplier to get the dual fuel discount because it would be silly not to, especially when said discount is advertised as being £50, £70 or even £100 per year. That’s a lot of lightbulbs. However, new research from Which!!! suggests that actually, buying your gas and electricity from the same supplier might not be the cheapest way to do it.
While we are all sold by the promise of huge cash discounts, quite often in life it doesn’t pay to get tied products if you don’t have to- home insurance as a condition of your mortgage being a great example- and it seems buying energy might follow a similar pattern. Which!!! found that the best deals for gas and electricity on their own were actually with smaller specialist suppliers, and by choosing the best individual deals, you could actually beat the dual-fuel-discount inclusive price of the more mainstream suppliers.
Which!!! reckon that small suppliers, like Daligas and Zog Energy, are often the cheapest for just gas, while electricity suppliers iSupplyEnergy and GB Energy Supply are the most competitive for electricity single supply. By using the best available tariffs, using prices from enrgylinx, Which!!! calculate your total energy costs for a year would be £849 a year, getting gas from Daligas (Daligas One FIX 12 paperless) and your electricity from GB Energy Supply (Premium Energy Saver). The cheapest dual fuel deal available, after deducting any dual fuel discount, comes in at £870, followed by the next cheapest at £913. This means that buying both fuels from the same supplier is actually costing you at least £20-60 more than choosing the best single fuel tariffs.
Of course, depending on how you are with bills, you might decide that the hassle factor of dealing with two suppliers instead of one is worth £20 to you. Also, if you are a switcher, the additional cashback you might get through sites like Quidco or Topcashback might be more than £20 more valuable to you, meaning a dual fuel switch might actually work out better for you. The point is to always assume the headline discount is not necessarily the best deal until proven otherwise. Energy companies are never considered the most trustworthy of brands, so why believe their discounts are the best without investigating it yourself?
It has been reported that 400 or so staff at British Gas and EDF Energy have been given body armour in case someone attacks them. Of course, no-one should be in fear of getting stabbed for simply doing their job, but then, even this hasn’t seen the powers that be thinking that there might be a problem with how much they’re charging: they see issuing stab vests as a solution, rather than making their products affordable.
The vests are being given to staff tasked with investigating energy theft, or those who have to fit homes with pre-payment meters to sort out customers who are in debt.
“Electricity and gas theft is a serious crime which puts lives at risk and adds unnecessary costs to customers’ bills. Because of the nature of the work our energy theft teams do, we’ve made protective clothing available to them,” said a spokesperson for British Gas.
A spokesman for EDF Energy added: “Our staff are issued with stab vests when carrying out debt-related customer visits or visits where the meter has been tampered with.”
Obviously, attacks are rare, and most customers vent their anger in the traditional way – shouting down the phone and the like – but really, this is a bleak indictment of the state of the energy market in the UK.
A couple of days ago, we pointed out that there’s a lot of people losing money because The Big Six energy companies are ripping you off. Well, according to the Competition and Markets Authority, over 95% of households in the UK are indeed paying too much.
They’ve said that everyone could save £234 a year by switching their supply of gas and electricity.
As ever, the ones being hammered hardest are the poor and old, because they either think switching is impossible, or that it’ll be too difficult to do or they haven’t even considered it at all. With the Big Six charging the highest prices and not likely to help you out, then people are being stung via their ‘standard tariffs’.
The watchdog is going to continue to look into this in a bid to find out why people don’t shop around and whether or not the Big Sixers are actively trying to keep everyone “disengaged so as to retain them on high tariffs”.
The CMA are also looking at the possibility that the energy companies are ‘discriminating’ against loyal customers (or indeed, those disengaged) and weighing-up whether the businesses might “exploit and influence” the behaviour of their customers to their own advantage.
With more than 90% of UK households signed-up with the Big Six firms – British Gas, SSE, ScottishPower, E.On, EDF Energy and Npower – this is of course, a big problem. Many customers are with this shower after companies inherited them after the energy market was privatised over a decade ago.
How To Switch
If you want to switch accounts, then you can use an Ofgem-approved price comparison site. Find out about those by starting here. Before doing that, get in touch with your current supplier and ask for an ‘annual summary’, so you’ll have all the info you’ll need to get a better deal. You can also call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
The National Audit Office has warned us all that energy bills could rise by around 50% over the next six years, outstripping inflation and basically leaving everyone in a position where no-one can afford to pay for it.
The NAO says in a report: ”The available projections suggest that increases in both energy and water bills will continue to outstrip inflation, on average, up to 2030.”
Angela Knight, chief executive for Energy UK, said that new research shows that energy prices could rise by 46% in the lead up to 2020. So, in short, from 2004, that means that prices will increase by 260%. By 2020, bills could be over £2,000.
Knight said: “The industry has become a lightning conductor for the general concern about the cost of living. As a result we stand accused for things that we do, for things that we don’t do, for things that we are responsible for and things that we are not … this is not an understood industry.”
Understood or not, we all know that prices are going up more sharply than wage increases and that any lack of transparency in the sector isn’t our fault. Bill prices haven’t been justified or explained and no-one seems to be doing anything about it, even though it looks like certain companies are indulging in flagrant blackmailing of the government by threatening further price rises if green levvies don’t change.
The NAO is recommending that the Treasury needs to publish the expected overall impact on our bills in a bid to promote transparency. Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “Government and regulators do not know the overall impact of planned infrastructure on future consumer utility bills, or whether households, especially those on low incomes, will be able to afford to pay them. It seems critical to know ‘how much is too much’, based on reliable information.”
In a joint statement, Ofgem and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said: ”It has been concluded that no evidence of the alleged market manipulation could be found and therefore that the interests of consumers have not been harmed.”
This all came about after independent energy pricing house ICIS Heren stated that “traders submitted erroneous bids and offers to skew the end-of-day price of a key gas contract.”
Ofgem said they’d looked into the allegations but said they were satisfied with evidence provided to them explained that market movements and transactions were not improper. ”These explanations are credible and no evidence was found which disputes the explanations provided,” Ofgem said. ”In light of this, it is considered that no further action is required in connection with the allegations relating to 28 September, 2012.”
It wasn’t too long ago that a number of banks were involved in a price fixing scandal, to which some huge fines are being handed out. The European Commission is also still investigating individuals at a number of firms for potential oil market abuse, with Shell, BP, Platts and Norway’s Statoil having their offices raided by the EC.
Something tells us this isn’t over.
Energy tariffs are deeply boring by their very nature. Say the words ‘unit prices’ and the average punter will fall asleep into their cornflakes like a narcoleptic on Nytol. What’s more, despite the Government’s proposal to simplify tariffs, consumers are still finding them too complicated.
When asked by Which! to identify the best deal in a range of tariffs using the proposed Ofgem Tariff Comparison Rate, most people’s mouths flapped open and shut like dying fish and they slumped to the ground clutching their heads saying ‘Unnnnggh’.
Only three in ten people were able to identify the cheapest deal using the Tariff Comparison rate. Which! is calling for a single unit price for electricity and gas, rather than the proposed system, which requires several hours of painstaking comparison and figures scrawled on bits of paper. When they arranged the same tariffs in using a single unit system, eight out of ten people were quickly able to make the cheapest choice.
‘You shouldn’t need a maths degree to work out the best energy deal,’ huffed Richard Lloyd of Which! ‘The complexity of energy pricing makes it virtually impossible for most people to make sense of the market.’
Isn’t that what energy companies are secretly hoping for?
Dramatically, Britain was six hours away from running out of gas in March. We can only imagine the apocalyptic world that would’ve happened minutes after that. Public floggings, cannibalism, people using electricity… all manner of weird shit.
Anyway, high demand during the record cold snap in March, combined with a pipeline fault saw gas stores “dangerously low”, the Crown Estate said.
At the time, reports said we were actually 2 days away from running out of gas, but the Crown Estate, which manages the Queen’s property portfolio including vast underground gas caverns (which sound like insane James Bond places) said it came even closer to doom.
Rob Hastings, energy and infrastructure director at the Crown Estate, was reported by the Financial Times as saying: “We really only had six hours’ worth of gas left in storage as a buffer. If it had run any lower it would have meant interruptions to supply. The bottom line is that in the UK we are in a place where the gas supply is dangerously low.”
Nick Winser, executive director of National Grid, said: “It is true that there wasn’t a huge amount of storage left – but there never is at the end of winter. The UK has low storage levels by international standards, but there is a large diversity of (supply) sources. Our gas supply resilience is quite substantial.”
As the hailstones lash the window, and squirrels knit themselves scarves out of little tiny twigs, Centrica are laughing all the way to the bank. Yes, gas usage is up 18%, a fifth higher than it was last year.
The depressed jet stream is really working out for the energy companies, especially Centrica, who own British Gas. In the first 4 months of 2013, we all put the heating on, and now they’re reaping a tidy profit. They also signed up 28,000 new customers in the last quarter.
So what are they going to do with all that lovely dough? Buy a new gold mankini for that yachting weekend in the Seychelles? Eat sushi off a naked Geisha? No, they’ve come over all socialist and stuff, and want to HELP us.
‘Any benefit arising from the exceptionally cold weather will be used to maintain our price competitiveness”, said Centrica. ‘We will use that [cold weather benefit] to effectively hold prices for as long as possible.’
This is after they put up prices to 6% during one of the coldest winters on record.
Well, I’ll be jiggered. That warm feeling is just what we all need to get through this Autumn – I mean, Spring.
Proving them fossil fuel lovin’ Tories wrong, Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey is saying that greener measures in the home can save each householder in Britain £166 a year off their energy bills by 2020.
The DECC published a report yesterday saying that the government only had control over 11% of the average annual £1250 energy bill – once gas prices, VAT energy company profits were taken into account.
But instead of sitting around picking their feet while the world melts, new government climate change policies like tighter building controls, smart meters and better A-rated boilers could effectively reduce bills, according to Davey.
He is also championing wind power – unlike some Conservative politicians, who don’t want wind turbines to spoil their view of their swimming pools, and (wrongly) say that it will cost an extra 120bn and make household bills even higher.
‘Global gas price hikes are squeezing households,’ Davey says. ‘They are beyond any government’s control. The analysis shows that our strategy of shifting to alternatives like renewables and of being smarter with how we use energy is helping those who need it most to save money on their bill.”
The millions of people who are too poor to put the heating on are essentially already part of this greener movement, but let’s face it, it’s a little bit more progressive than Osborne’s ‘Dash for gas.’
Last one to turn down the thermostat is a sissy.
Thanks to a bone-crushingly cold March, Britain is on the verge of running out of gas. If the cold weather carries on, by the 8th April we could have to rely on foreign imports from Norway or Russia, pushing energy prices up.
The UK usually only ever has 15 days worth of gas held reserve at any one time because of a lack of storage facilities, but due to increased demand during the unseasonable weather, there’s now only 2 days left.
Scottish and Southern Energy is even warning that in the next three years there will be ‘energy blackouts’ as demand outstrips supply. Some experts say that as a result energy bills could go up by £100 this winter.
The gas shortage news comes as George Osborne launches his ‘dash for gas’ initiative, pushing for it to become the UK’s main source of fuel. With carbon supplies rapidly running out, this seems a bit like launching ‘a dash for wax cylinders’ or ‘dash for Betamax’.
Energy companies want government gas reform so they have can store more, generate more and charge more. But if we continue to depend on fossil fuels we will have even more cold Marches and then – end of days.
But I’m sure George Osborne and the Big Six energy companies will sort it and it will ALL BE FINE. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to stock up my Richard Madeley Armageddon Cupboard.