Utility Week

UTILITY Week 11th April 2014

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UTILITY WEEK | 11Th - 17Th AprIL 2014 | 27 Customers This week Davey reveals delays to blackout helpline Energy secretary demands that emergency number for DNOs be set up with more urgency A three-digit emergency number for customers to call in the event of a power cut is being held up by delays, the energy secretary has told the Energy and Climate Change select committee (ECCC). Ed Davey told the committee that a mandatory Ofcom consul- tation on setting up the number, and procurement processes, are among the issues slowing down delivery. The consultation period is likely to add at least six months to the timetable for the creation of the number, although Davey said he wanted this to be completed "as quickly as possible". He added that the industry wanted to learn from other projects that had taken a long time, and he cited the NHS non-emergency number. Davey said the 111 number took five years to set up, and this "was not acceptable" for the energy industry. He wanted it done in "less than half that time". He also told MPs that the first of three phases moving towards this number "is happening now", which is get- ting distribution network operators (DNOs), where they have more than one distribution area, to have a single contact number. The second phase will be an 0800 num- ber for consumers to call "which may be available by the middle of next year". Davey told the committee the costs could "ulti- mately" come back to the consumer, but he added that the system may save DNOs money and that "maybe the efficiencies of the new system will end up paying for it" so customer bills "won't be affected". MB EffIcIENcY Call for rented home minimum standard More than 30 organisations have urged the government to set a minimum energy efficiency stand- ard for privately rented homes. In a statement, the organisa- tions – including the Energy Saving Trust, the Association for the Conservation of Energy, and the UK Green Building Council (UK GBC) – called on the govern- ment to introduce the standard "without delay", giving land- lords as much time as possible to improve their properties. In the Energy Act, the govern- ment legislated for a minimum standard to be set by April 2018 at the latest, and the organisa- tions are urging the government to set this standard sooner. Green MP Caroline Lucas said a "robust" minimum standard should be set at the energy per- formance certificate band E. John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK GBC, added: "A minimum energy efficiency standard would also give a much needed boost to the flagging Green Deal." WATEr Wales could be set consumption targets Water companies in Wales could be set per capita consumption targets as part of the Welsh Assembly's water strategy. The devolved administration is consulting on how to reduce the water usage for both domes- tic and commercial customers, including setting company tar- gets for per capita consumption. The consultation, which closes on 4 July 2014, stated the Welsh Government will "assess the feasibility" of the initiative. Another proposal in the strat- egy is the metering of all water supplies in Wales "in a phased and proportionate programme". ELEcTrIcITY Scotland could help with capacity crunch The looming electricity capacity crunch will drive up bills but Scotland's "plentiful" gen- eration can help, the Scottish Government argued in a report published on Monday. An independent Scotland "will require a far greater degree of oversight of the market" and "firmer safeguards" over Scottish energy security, the report said. While Ofgem estimates the UK capacity margin could fall as low as 2 per cent in winter 2015/16 if demand is high, the report noted the equivalent figure for Scotland would be around 20 per cent. Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing criticised the UK government's "mixed messages on renewables" and "delayed energy market reforms" for halt- ing investment in new capacity. Davey: energy must learn from other industries I am the customer Lewis Shand Smith "Social media is forcing companies to rethink" As the energy price debate rages, it's perhaps unsurprising that new figures from Ombudsman Services: Energy revealed that complaints made about energy suppliers during the month of February increased 252 per cent compared with those of February 2013. Complaints made in Febru- ary 2014 reached 3,626 – double the number of complaints made in December 2013. So, what's behind the sudden rise in complaints? Aside from energy price rises, we seem to be how they do business. The public nature of this naming and shaming has huge implications for them, especially at a time when reputations can hang on how a complaint is handled. And when it comes to energy companies, few consumers are able to distinguish one supplier from the next, so getting the customer experience right is one truly effective way for a company to differentiate itself. Lewis Shand Smith is the chief ombudsman witnessing the emergence of a savvier consumer who – post- recession – knows the benefit of complaining. Faced with rising living costs, these consumers want value for their hard-earned money without having to com- promise on quality or service. The ever-growing popular- ity of social media is making it easier for customers to complain in new ways. Disgruntled cus- tomers can publicly share their complaint on social media sites – a recent report says 27 per cent of complainants used them to get an issue addressed last year. Perhaps the fastest way to gain a response, social media is forcing companies to rethink

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