May you live in interesting times is the apocryphal Chinese curse supposedly reserved for one’s enemies. In the energy industry right now, we certainly do.
The referral of the sector to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is just the latest interesting scene in a long running drama. It’s a drama that really began twenty years ago with privatisation: an experiment that has failed to deliver (like all privatisations, arguably) and is clearly not up to the very significant challenges ahead. (more…)
I’m not given to paranoia – I should say that first.
But in the past few months there have been a succession of ‘think tank’ reports, press articles and TV programs – all with the same theme – wind energy costs too much and it doesn’t work very well.
The picture being painted – is that green energy policies are responsible for huge hikes in energy bills, now and in the future – and that onshore wind in particular is a big cost and big waste of money. It’s a tune that much of our media are happy to dance to.
The timing of all of this is probably not coincidental as the government prepares to make the most radical changes to the electricity market in perhaps a generation (no pun intended). There’s a lot at stake.
What we have here, IMO, is special interest group lobbying – using dodgy (often very shoddy) think tank reports as the basis for press coverage – which itself masquerades as fact to the unwary. It’s a dirty tricks campaign.
Meanwhile – OFGEM have just published their latest report into the cost of the Renewables Obligation (for 2010 – 2011) – the main policy to stimulate and support green energy in the UK.
It’s a startling reality check for anyone sucked in by this campaign.
The actual cost per household that year, for green energy support was just £15.15. And that was for all technologies.
The part of that which went to onshore wind energy – was just £4.68.
For a better price, a greener outcome, or better customer service.
These seem to be the big three.
Customer Service is perhaps the most overlooked of them all – it’s the one where customers have least data to compare – to actually identify a better service.
Switching for this reason will often be a reaction to bad service with their current provider and at the same time a leap in the dark – often out of the frying pan and into the fire.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Since October 2009 OFGEM has obliged all energy companies to record and report their annual customer complaints in a standardised way – making them easily comparable (potentially).
But most people won’t know this and won’t have seen any figures – because they get buried on individual supplier websites. They take some digging out, truth be told. (more…)
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.
OFGEM recently released an outline of their proposed new green electricity accreditation scheme … but…
…OFGEM’s idea for regulating green electricity tariffs is to ban them!
Their new rules will ensure customers can’t get real green tariffs in the UK – all they’ll be able to get will be ‘green’ tariffs where trees get planted or carbon gets offset – cuddly, stupid, and quite pointless ‘green’ tariffs.
This is how OFGEM think they’re going to straighten out consumer confusion – by redefining green tariffs as being about anything but investment in new sources of green electricity. (more…)
This blog is about answers to the big questions - how will we keep the lights on, what kind of cars will we drive (will we drive?) and how will we feed ourselves - in a post oil world, and a world where we can't afford to keep burning things and throwing things away. Energy, Transport and Food are the three big issues.