Utility Week

UTILITY Week 20th February 2015

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24 | 20th - 26th February 2015 | utILIty WeeK Customers This week Spark pays £250k for breaking Ofgem rules New entrant makes payout to Citizens advice after falling foul of rules on switching and billing Spark Energy has agreed to pay £250,000 to energy consumers aer Ofgem found the new mar- ket entrant failed its customers. The regulator said Spark stopped customers from switching to other suppliers, transferred others without their consent, and fell short of billing and complaints standards. Most of the failings were between June 2010 and Octo- ber 2013, just a few years aer the company began opera- tions in 2007. But Sarah Harrison, Ofgem's senior partner in charge of enforcement, said Spark's inexperience in the market was "no excuse" for breaking the rules. The high number of complaints against the supplier was picked up by the BBC's Watchdog programme in 2013 and the Ofgem investigation began shortly aer- wards. Since then, Ofgem said the supplier had "made significant progress" in putting new processes in place to resolve its issues. "The £250,000 reflects the seriousness of the breaches but also Spark's size, and that during the investigation it has worked hard to resolve the issues identified," Harrison said. Spark Energy said it has undergone a "wholesale restructuring" of its business, including an overhaul of its senior personnel and investment of about £2.5 million to double its customer care team from 60 to 120 people. The independent supplier will make the £250,000 payment to Citizens Advice, where it will be split equally between Citizens Advice Scotland and Citizens Advice in England and Wales to help energy consumers. JA Gas BG hits Eco target four months early British Gas met its first Energy Companies Obligation (Eco) target in December 2014, ahead of its March 2015 deadline. It said that more than 330,000 of the homes it supplies have benefited from energy-effi- ciency measures installed under Eco, such as free lo and cavity- wall insulation and free efficient boilers for those who qualify. The supplier also completed 49 community insulation schemes for social housing residents, two of which included renewable biomass boiler com- munity heating systems. British Gas Residential Energy managing director Ste- phen Beynon said: "We've had fantastic feedback from people whose homes have been trans- formed through this scheme." Eco is a government scheme that requires energy companies to improve the energy efficiency of people's homes. Water UU expands water efficiency trial United Utilities is expanding its water efficiency trial in west Cumbria. The company is looking for another 300 households from the Copeland and Allerdale areas to sign up to the scheme by April, joining 700 households that have already signed up. United Utilities' demand strategy manager Clare Bullen said: "The reason we chose west Cumbria is because it's where we need to protect sensitive local water sources." Experts from UU will assess households' current water use, provide advice and fit water efficiency gadgets, and monitor the results for a year. The households already tak- ing part have so far managed to reduce their water consumption by 11.6 per cent in six months. eNerGy Switchers favour new market entrants Only 24 per cent of energy consumers considering a switch say they would move to one of the big six suppliers, a survey by Ernst & Young has revealed. In contrast, 37 per cent of would choose to move to an independent energy supplier. The survey of 2,000 consum- ers showed that 24 per cent have switched supplier in the past year, and 22 per cent said they would "probably" switch in the coming year. Tony Ward, head of power and utilities at Ernst & Young, pointed out that, while aware- ness is "still relatively low" among energy consumers, the situation is "certainly improving". Harrison: Spark's inexperience was 'no excuse' I am the customer Peter Pharoah "Be alert to the factors that affect the price of energy" In February, the UK energy mar- kets are exposed to volatility not seen for several months, mostly because of factors well beyond the control of the UK, both now and in the medium term. The dependence of the UK gas market on Norwegian and LNG imports was highlighted as snow and ice affected parts of the country at the start of February, when the system was forecast to be up to 55 million cubic metres short (around 15 to 20 per cent of the demand through regulation or reduced production. We're advising commercial energy customers to be alert to the variety of factors that affect the price they pay for their energy. Energy brokers are well positioned to respond to market volatility and take advantage of favourable market conditions by tailoring customers' own 'hedges' to their consumption and exposure. Peter Pharoah, head of energy markets, Ener-G Procurement expected that day). This was the result of reduced gas imports into the UK through the Langeled supply route, mostly because of short-term problems at a Norwegian processing plant. As Norwegian supplies resumed, the UK markets were hit by news that the huge Groningen field in the Netherlands is subject to new restrictions on production aer earth tremors. Dutch gas is piped to Britain by various means (GasTerra has a supply contract with Centrica though the BBL pipeline), but the major impact on markets is the sentiment that we are experi- encing now, of falling indig- enous supply year on year, be it

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