Utility Week

Utility Week 14 03 14

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UTILITY WEEK | 14Th - 20Th March 2014 | 27 Customers This week Fallon signals action to aid heavy industry Business and energy minister says existing compensation and exemptions 'are not enough' Government will bring in new measures to shield heavy industry from rising energy prices, Michael Fallon signalled on Monday. The business and energy min- ister warned there is "a clear and present danger" the UK could lose jobs in the steel and chemi- cal industries without action. A competitiveness gap between Europe and the US "is becoming unbridgeable", he said. Existing compensation and exemptions for indus- try "are not enough", Fallon told delegates at Edison Electric Institute's International Utility Conference. "We should look at relief from other policy costs." The Chancellor is widely expected to announce a freeze on the carbon floor price in next week's Budget. The green tax has come under fire from businesses because it places a burden on UK customers that is not faced by their European competitors. Fallon appeared to confirm the rumour, saying: "Next week's Budget gives us the chance to underpin our com- mitment to manufacturing." His words also suggest government might go further and meet industry demands for exemptions from renew- able subsidies. Manufacturers' association EEF welcomed the speech. "With UK energy costs resulting from energy taxes spiralling out of control this is putting a brake on investment and seriously risking jobs in our most energy-intensive industries," said chief executive Terry Scuoler. "The Chancellor has every opportunity to sig- nificantly address this issue at the Budget." MD EnErgY ASA probing Green Deal loan claims The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is investigating a briefing paper produced by the Green Deal Finance Company (GDFC). The ASA is investigating claims within the document pro- duced by the GDFC that its loans are the cheapest on the market, following a complaint by Crystal Home Improvements. The ASA would only confirm it is investigating a complaint against the GDFC, but said it would not comment until a final outcome has been reached. The company, which was set up with £244 million of public money, provides Green Deal payment plans for providers to offer to consumers, and does not engage "in any marketing cam- paigns with the general public". In a statement, the GDFC accepted the briefing note "could have been clearer" with regard to the market review on which the disputed claims were based, but has provided "further recent research which provides that validation". EnErgY Government wants QR codes on bills Consumers will be able to make an "instant comparison" of their energy tariff as the government plans to introduce QR (Quick Response) codes to energy bills. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has launched a consultation on modifying licence conditions for suppliers so they have to include QR codes on energy bills. Energy secretary Ed Davey said: "We're determined to make energy markets work better for consumers – and despite all the evidence showing that QR codes on bills would make a real differ- ence to people, energy companies still haven't done anything about it. That's why we're acting to make sure people have a quick, straightforward way to compare the best deal for them with a simple swipe of their phone." WaTEr CCWater says meters can cut costs by £100 The Consumer Council for Water has claimed the installation of water meters can save house- holds more than £100 a year. CCWater said a free water meter is the best way for many consumers to reduce bills as households feel the pressure of the cost of living. Last month it was revealed the average household water and sewerage bill will rise by £8 from £385 to £393 in 2014/15 and the watchdog is advising con- sumers to use its online water meter calculator to see if making the switch will save them money. 'Clear and present danger': steel industry at risk I am the customer Gillian Guy "We want to see a single consistent social tariff " Clean water is the most basic human need. At a time when people on low incomes are strug- gling with low wages and high fuel bills, action is needed to help people with the extra pres- sure of rising water costs. For many people, water costs can too easily be an extra burden and even small rises can create real financial problems. In the past year, Citizens Advice bureaux helped people with 79,000 problems about their water supply debts. ily finding it difficult to manage costs may have help available to them in one part of the country but not in another. Support to help people manage their finances needs to be fair and universal. Citizens Advice wants to see all water suppliers offering a single consistent social tariff, with the same criteria. A national tariff would stop people missing out on essential support. Gillian Guy, chief executive, Citizens Advice Customers cannot take mat- ters into their own hands when prices rise or they receive poor service. They are unable to switch to a cheaper water supplier or tariff, like they can with their energy and phones. It is vital that water suppliers and the regulator do everything they can to ensure prices are kept as low as possible and that people who are strug- gling can get the support they need to get on top of their bills. The introduction of social tar- iffs has been a good first step in helping low-income people with squeezed finances. However, the current system means that the type and availability of help comes down to location. A fam- © Ian Enness

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