Utility Week

UTILITY Week 31st October 2014

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26 | 31st OctOber - 6th NOvember 2014 | UtILItY WeeK Customers This week Small firms may face smart meter struggle smaller suppliers may have trouble recruiting and retaining smart meter installers Smart meter installers are hold- ing out for jobs with larger com- panies because they offer greater work security, leading to delays and extra costs for small suppli- ers, Utility Week has learnt. Independent firms are concerned that the problem, coupled with a shortage of meter fitters in the industry, is putting them at a disadvantage compared with the big six. "Working with the big six is no doubt a draw for some installers. When the smart metering work is complete, they can change skills and move to another department within the company," said GMB union national secretary for commercial services, Gary Smith. Utility Week understands that given their small cus- tomer base, some independent suppliers may struggle with the estimated £16,000 required to train an installer. There is also the risk of installers being enticed away before the training costs have been recouped. Ovo Energy managing director of in-home technol- ogy, Mel Gander, confirmed that the company was see- ing "bottlenecks" in installer capacity. "Naturally that's going to affect smaller suppliers more acutely and we're not able to roll out for our cus- tomers as fast as we'd like as a result," she said. Gander added that the full scale of what was required on the ground to make it possible had not yet been "fully appreciated". Energy suppliers are due to deploy 53 million smart meters across UK between 2015 and 2020, at a cost to bill payers of £10.9 billion. JB eNergY Knight: UK market 'one of the most active' in the world The UK energy market is "one of the most active in terms of cus- tomer switching" in the world, according to the chief executive of Energy UK. Speaking at the trade associa- tion's annual conference last week, Angela Knight said that over the past year about three- and-a-half million customers had "shopped around" for a new energy supplier, leading to a reduction in their bills. Knight added that over the past three years, independent suppliers' market share had grown to 8 per cent, up from 4 per cent three years previously. eNergY Customer service is 'awful', says Ofgem Ofgem has given energy suppli- ers until the end of October to fix their "frankly awful" complaint handling procedures. The regulator demanded sup- pliers stand accountable to their customers and explain to them what they are doing to improve complaint handling. "We are already formally investigating Npower about complaint handling and other customer service issues and this should send a strong signal to all suppliers that we are ready to take action to drive up stand- ards," it said in a statement. Ofgem said it was "suppliers' responsibility" to get complaint handling right in the first place, but that there needed to be a "greater awareness" of the Energy Ombudsman, who could help resolve disputes. The statement from Ofgem came aer shadow energy secre- tary Caroline Flint said that more than 500,000 energy customers were potentially missing out on compensation they were owed by their suppliers. eNergY Usage will have to be slashed if Decc bill goals are to be met Consumers will need to slash their energy usage to lower their bills by £400 if the government's 2020 energy bill target is to be met, an analysis by PwC has claimed. Decc will have to "rely heav- ily" on consumers reducing their usage to ensure the forecasted 2020 annual energy bill of £1,331 is met, according to PwC's Energy 2020 Tracker. PwC said a "greater focus will be required from all sides" on the implementation of energy efficiency, as well as policy reforms, greater consumer awareness and incentives, if the savings outlined by Decc are to be realised. Big suppliers have a ready pool of installers I am the customer Andrew Bainbridge "Water competition brings problems and opportunities" Water has rarely been at the top of the customer agenda because the amounts consumed are usually very much less than the amounts of electricity and gas that are used. Many companies have paid their water bills with- out questioning them – despite common billing errors. For years, the Major Energy Users' Council (MEUC) advised large customers on ways to save water and, as soon as it was clear that full competition would come in 2017, I accepted Ofwat's goes wrong and what steps are they taking to improve? MEUC members have had private meetings with the water minister and his predecessor to ensure that new water legislation will work under competition. Our meeting on 3 December, hosted by Thames Water at Reading FC's stadium, will bring together leading figures in the industry to agree action on com- mon problems. Come and join us! Andrew Bainbridge, chairman, Major Energy Users' Council request to bring customers and suppliers together in a new Water Competition Action Group. Suppliers who had never operated in a competitive market were sluggish to embrace cus- tomer demand and customers oen have no effective plan to reduce waste, cope with potential drought or deal with flooding. Customers must understand how they can benefit from ask- ing for tenders from competing suppliers and what the problems and opportunities are likely to be. Suppliers, meanwhile, need to make a very critical appraisal of their customer challenge groups. Are they working prop- erly? Do they really know what

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