Something very strange/funny/quite awful has come to light in the last few weeks.
It starts with this:
For the last five years Good Energy (a small UK based green electricity supplier) has been claiming to retire 5% more ROCs than they are legally obliged to do. Supposedly to encourage other people to build new green generators.
It’s been their one big claim to green fame. And it’s the single thing that’s brought them recommendations from FOE (Friends Of the Earth), NCC (National Consumer Council) and Ethical Consumer magazine – and it’s brought them customers of course.
Good Energy have repeated this 5% claim in all their marketing material and pushed the recommendation of FOE and NCC consistently now for five years. It’s been a very simple bold claim – ‘we retire 5% more ROCs than our legal obligation’ is a typical format. No wriggle room there. You either do or you don’t.
Nobody ever thought to check if they actually have been doing this though, until two months ago when we first asked OFGEM. I’m not sure why, except we know them pretty well and it seemed more than possible to us that they were saying one thing and doing another. More on this later if anyone’s interested.
OFGEM had some trouble with their systems and their data and it took about two months to get the final, final version of the numbers, although they were pretty close to the first version to be fair.
The most amazing thing is Good Energy, according to OFGEM (the industry regulator and keeper of ROCs no less) have never, ever, in all this time – met a single promise to retire 5% ROCs. Not once in five years.
There was more – For the last two years Good Energy have retired no ROCs at all…!
You have to go back three years to find a year that they actually retired any ROCs in – And then they managed just 40% of their 5% promise.
We were pretty stunned.
We dug deeper.
The total value of the broken ROC promises, these last five years, is bigger than Good Energy’s total reported profits for the same period – had they been keeping their word, they would have been trading at a loss. Perhaps trading insolvently.
One of the biggest ironies here is that both FOE and NCC sought to offer consumers confidence, in a confusing market (they said), through their research they offered a strong endorsement of Good Energy as the greenest supplier and an ethical company.
But neither organisation undertook any actual checks, they just accepted what they were told. That’s a pretty awful thing for champions of the truth to do, IMO.
Maybe it was a subliminal thing, a company with Good in the title must be good right? Wrong it would seem, Good Energy have been dishonest to them both, not just once, but over a number of years – claiming to retire 5% while they knowingly did not.
There can be no doubt here – the claim was to retire 5% additional ROCs and the facts are that this has never even once been met.
And it’s three years since Good Energy retired any ROCs at all.
This is serial deceit, perhaps fraud is a fair description – deceit for monetary gain. Perpetrated on FOE, NCC, on customers and on shareholders – people who bought shares during this time based on profits that have been inflated by the broken ROC promises.
Customers have been paying a £100 a year or so premium to be with Good Energy, something NCC said was ‘fully justified by the ROC retirement’ – without ever checking of course. Consumers can sleep safe in their beds with champions like this on their side… 🙂
And check this, welcoming proposals from OFGEM for new green tariff guidelines, Juliet Davenport, CEO of GE wrote this in the Guardian in Feb this year:
“We must tackle these false claims for domestic green power tariffs. It’s time to overhaul the system that allows electricity firms to hoodwink customers trying to go green”
“… having called for clear rules, regulation and transparency over green tariffs for several years, I thought I would offer some clarity.”
“While they may not be perfect, we feel the guidelines could shine a welcome light into some murky waters.”
The most breathtaking and bare faced hypocrisy you’ve ever heard? It is for me.
We might expect such behaviour from one of the Big Six, or big oil company and we might expect FOE to be jumping all over them for it – where are you now guys?
Worse part for me is this:
Good Energy’s purpose in the last five years has been to try and force on the UK market this philosophy of ROC retirement – something that we have been arguing all this time is ineffective (it does not lead to new capacity) and too costly to be affordable. Ripping up ROC certificates is a waste of customer money, money better spent building something, that’s been our stance and for that we’ve been slated by FOE and NCC.
So yes, it’s rather a schadenfreude moment for us.
Good Energy have been putting profits before promises, deceiving the consumer groups that have been recommending them – trying to foist their, now clearly bankrupt, philosophy of ROC retirement on the rest of us, while not doing it themselves.
I am flabbergasted actually, it’s the most amazing con.
Since we first raised the issue with Good Energy they’ve offered a series of responses – first came mild offence that we should even question this, second was reassurance that the 5% retirement actually did take place, third came ‘we retire 18 months late’ – easily disproven and then dropped to be replaced by ‘we’re too busy actually, with an advert in Bath Life, to deal with this’ I kid you not.
We also flagged it to FOE and NCC – they’ve both been slow to react, simply asking Good Energy if they really have retired the 5% ROCs and, it seems, happy to accept the assurances that they have. OFGEM meanwhile maintains that they most definitely have not.
It’s time for Good Energy to just come clean. The promise was simple, the failure is as equally simple as it is total. No more lies pls guys.
ETA: Here’s a table with the figures for a more complete picture:
|Year||ROC Target @5%||Actual ROCs retired||% of ROC Target hit|
|2008/2009||(not yet known)||0||0%|