Posts Tagged ‘gas’
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.
Hampshire. Nice county, down at the bottom of the country. Bit slow. In the pioneering spirit of 2013, Hampshire councillors have now decided to be proactive, they want their residents to get cheaper gas and electricity and they are going to do something about it. Right now.
That’s right, the Council have decided to launch an innovative new “bulk buying” scheme allowing Hampshireites to combine their purchasing power and get a better deal from utility companies, each saving in the region of £60 to £200.
This genius original idea would involve signing up an “organisation” to register customers, identify their energy use and then negotiate with energy companies on their behalf to get the best deal as a group. They say that total savings across Hampshire could reach £25 million and could involve customers agreeing to switch suppliers up to three times a year.
What’s more, there would be no charges to the customer or any council tax payer for the service, as the organisation’s payment would come from a referral fee paid by the energy supplier.
Mel Kendal, deputy leader and executive member for environment at Hampshire County Council, said: “There are approximately 760,000 households in Hampshire. If two per cent sign up to switch energy supplier through our collective energy switching service, this would give a combined purchasing power of just over 15,000 customers.” 15,000. Golly. That’s almost 7% of 230,000 customers.
She continued: “That is a big amount of business for any energy company, so by bulk buying the deal should be better. Clearly, the more people who sign up, the more negotiating power we will have – so it is vital as many people as possible register for the scheme,” once the Council give it the green light on 22 January.
This is such a brilliant idea, we’re amazed someone else didn’t think of it first. Someone like the Big Switch, say, who had over 230,000 people sign up, only to discover the major energy companies wouldn’t play ball and to end up with a very limited not-necessarily-cheaper deal, which could even be beaten on the market.
Still, we wish Hampshire all the best. Tell 2012 we said hello.
Brilliant news! Three million of you will now have higher energy bills for seemingly no good reason after those arses at EDF put their tariffs up by 10.8% and no-one wants to do anything about it.
Just in time for winter.
EDF will whack their prices for domestic gas and electricity up, which means a typical dual-fuel bill for a direct debit customer will rise by £122 a year. That’s £1,251 you’re spending, each year, on gas and electricity from these berks.
Like all the other energy suppliers, EDF are blaming these hikes on rising wholesale prices and increased running costs. EDF director Martin Lawrence said: “We know that customers will not welcome this news and do not want to see prices going up.”
“Our new prices will however be cheaper on average than those of all the other major suppliers which have announced standard price rises so far this autumn.”
Well done to the energy sector on becoming a group that has done the near-impossible, by proving to be more shark-eyed and unpopular than all the banks put together.
REVOLUTION! Ofgem has announced some proposals that will make energy-buying nightmares a thing of the past. They’ve said that they are going to make the gas and electricity market ‘simpler, clearer and fairer’, but the industry itself has described the proposals as ‘challenging’. FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
Plans include showing the cheapest tariffs on bills, the banning of complex multi-tier tariffs, new personalised information to help consumers find their best deal, and ensuring customers default to the cheapest option at the end of fixed-term contract. Ofgem are proposing that suppliers are limited to no more than four core tariffs for each fuel, hopefully doing away with the confusing jungle of price plans that exist at the moment.
Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan is pretty full of himself, and said: “Our plans will put an end to consumers being confused by complex tariffs and will usher in a simpler, clearer, fairer and more competitive energy market for all consumers. I am glad to say that suppliers have already responded with some initiatives, but these do not go far enough.”
How much of this actually happens and how long it all takes remains to be seen…
Energy Secretary Ed Davey appeared to distance himself today from the Prime Minister’s surprise announcement that gas and electricity firms will be required in law to give customers the lowest available deals.
Yesterday, suet-faced David Cameron said that he was going to tackle soaring energy bills during Prime Minister’s Question Time, but alas, no-one knows anything about it and would rather not talk about it thankyouverymuch.
And today, secretary of energy and that, Ed Davey, massively sidestepped questions about the PM’s statement, with Labour weighing in to score cock-points, saying that Davey knows nothing about these proposals and that the whole thing is a big, fat mess.
So maybe someone else in the government will be able to shed some light on the news that energy companies are going to give customers their lowest tariffs? Well, Downing Street nor Mr Davey’s officials have been able to provide anything resembling a detail about it all and the Energy Secretary failed to even refer to it when questioned by the BBC this morning.
“I’ve been working with the Deputy Prime Minister and others, working with the energy companies, to try to drive more competition, to get them to agree that they will tell their customers what are the best available tariffs, so customers can save money,” said Mr Davey. ”These high energy prices are causing lots of problems and they are at the top of my list of priorities.”
Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said Cameron’s statement is confusing everyone, saying: “It caused chaos in the energy industry and I have to say it left his own ministers at a loss as to what energy policy actually is. For the Government to spend a day pretending they have a policy they have no intention of implementing is no way to run the country. It is like something out of The Thick of It.”
Only not at all funny or sweary.
Either way, we’re all looking down the barrel of above-inflation price rises by the Big 6, and no-one seems to be doing anything about it, meaning we’ll all either die in a cold snap or be getting bailiffs for Christmas.
So frequently are Which!!! calling for reviews of things, it is impossible to keep up. Or interested. That said, here we are, looking at the consumer group shouting at the energy market and demanding an independent review, if the Government wouldn’t mind.
In an open letter to David Cameron, Which?!?! said the Government should face up to the fact that the energy market is “broken” and that people deserve to know the truth about recent price hikes.
Richard Lloyd, Executive Director of Which??!?!? said: “You said ‘we are making energy companies be competitive’ but there is little evidence of this. 75% of consumers are on the most expensive tariffs and the level of switching continues to decline. It’s time to face facts: the energy market is broken.”
“People are questioning whether they are paying a fair price for their gas and electricity. The energy companies blame wholesale price increases but even the regulator has found that prices don’t fall when the wholesale price drops. The sector is dominated by a handful of big and powerful players who are seemingly unaffected by the normal competitive pressure of price and customer service.”
“Until we see greater transparency and prices presented clearly, consumers will continue to distrust the energy market and remain unable to drive genuine competition through moving to the cheapest tariffs.”
In response, a DECC spokesman said: “Households facing rising energy bills this winter aren’t going to be helped by more inquiries or investigations that could take years to complete and implement. We know what the problems are, we want to get on with tackling them now. We’re focusing on action, not more words.”
“The fact is, reforms by Government and Ofgem, including electricity market reform through the forthcoming Energy Bill and Ofgem’s ongoing Retail Market Review, offer the quickest way to boost consumer confidence in the energy market. We have the Energy Bill due this autumn and Ofgem is due to move to the next stage of its review before winter. In the meantime we’re offering practical advice to households on how to get energy bills down and keep their homes warm.”
It’s energy price rise time again folks! British Gas are all set to announce another round of price increases tomorrow, with gas and electricity going up by about 8%, adding around £100 to the average annual dual fuel bill.
SSE (also known as Scottish Hydro, Swalec and Southern Electric) has already taken to the stage and announced it will raise its prices by an average of 9% from Monday. We should have been ready for the British Gas rises as they last put prices up in August 2011, when gas prices went up by 18% and electricity prices by 16%. A meagre 5% electricity in January 2012 was thrown out to customers but it looks as though normal service has been resumed just in time for the cold snap.
‘Hey Bitterwallet,’ we hear you cry, ‘they’re blaming it all on wholesale gas prices again, aren’t they?’ Yes, dear consumer, yes they are. Wholesale gas will be 15% higher this year than it was last year. Whatever that REALLY means.
You can expect to see the rest of the energy companies following suit over the coming days and weeks (days), except for Eon, who have previously promised not change their prices until January 2013, when you can be sure that they’ll put them up. Wahoo! Better start stocking up on jumpers and long johns from your local charity shop…
Energy bills are expensive. The average UK bill is now over £1,300 a year, so many people choose to take advantage of the Economy 7 tariff- the idea being that if you can use energy at off-peak times, you get it cheaper. Many households try to do this, through the use of night storage heaters and timing washing machines and dishwashers to do their dirty work in the middle of the night.
However, some poking around by those champion sorts over at Consumer Focus has found that many people using Economy 7 (or another ‘time of use’ tariff) would actually be better off on a standard tariff.
You see, energy companies have distinct pricing structures for Economy 7 customers, which normally mean these customers cannot take advantage of their ‘headline’ tariffs. Of course, the off-peak energy charges will be lower than standard prices, but no-one can only use off-peak energy. The price differential between non-off-peak Economy 7 prices and standard prices mean that, for some energy providers, customers would have to use up to 45% of their energy at off-peak times. Which is a big ask. The minimum percentage use varies across suppliers and area:
In addition, the research shows that 38 per cent of these economy customers don’t even have storage heaters and/or do not regularly use appliances at off-peak times. These people are getting no real benefit from the off-peak tariff and likely be better off on other energy deals.
Another big problem reported by customers is confusion over off-peak times and rates. Many people aren’t sure when the cheaper hours are, how much they need to use at off-peak rates to get the benefit of their tariff, and how this compares to their current energy use. Almost six out of 10 (59 per cent) of users think additional information and advice would help them make better use of their tariff and heating system.
Consumer Focus wants energy suppliers to provide better information and advice to consumers on Time of Use tariffs. Consumers need better information on off-peak hours, their electricity use and how to get maximum benefit from their tariff. They said: “ It is especially important that key information including the off peak hours is provided regularly on customers’ bills and that those who are not using off-peak rates effectively are proactively contacted and given advice by their supplier. Where customers are not benefiting from being on an Economy 7 tariff, we want to see all suppliers offer to bill them as a standard tariff customer or replace their meter.”
We tend to agree with them. Now, we just need the energy companies to give up this lucrative stream often coming from those with the lowest amounts of cash… But before you start laughing too hard, Consumer Focus are reporting that several suppliers, including British Gas, E.ON and npower have taken up the challenge and have reviewed or will soon carry out a review of their Economy 7 customer base to identify customers who would benefit from being billed as a standard tariff customer.