Utility Week

UTILITY Week 27th March 2015

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UTILITY WEEK | 27Th March - 2nd aprIL 2015 | 25 Customers This week Flexible customers offered lower tariffs Users of remotely managed appliances will have access to the lowest energy prices Newly licensed electricity supplier Tempus Energy has launched an offer that gives flex- ible customers the opportunity to access lower tariffs. The offer is targeted at business and domestic users of Tempus' demand-flexibility technology, who have appliances that can be managed remotely. Customers will be able to decide how flexible they want to be with their electricity use, and the most flex- ible will "enjoy higher savings". Flexible domestic customers will be able to access tariffs as low as 10.9 pence per kWh (plus VAT), with no standing charge. The big six energy firms offer standard tariffs of 11 to 16 pence per kWh. Sara Bell, founder and chief executive of Tempus, said customers deserve a system that is "smart and efficient enough" to deliver value for customers as well as profits for generators. Energy and Climate Change Committee chairman Tim Yeo emphasised the importance of demand-side response technology in "driving down the cost of low-carbon electricity" and hailed Tempus' offer as a "significant moment for supply market competition". Tempus is a supplier of energy and demand-manage- ment systems. Last year, the firm developed technology to automatically shi consumption away from expensive peak times into lower price periods, for example at night. Tempus has been vocal in its criticism of the gov- ernment's "unfair" prioritisation of fossil fuels over demand-side options. LV EnErgY Scheme to protect heat customers The district heating industry has thrown its weight behind a scheme to protect heat custom- ers in the UK. The voluntary Heat Trust scheme is expected to launch later this year and is aimed at suppliers that sell heat energy directly to customers in domestic and micro-business properties. Heat networks create local monopolies, but they are not regulated in the same way as electricity and gas distribution. The protection given under the scheme mirrors that of gas and electricity customers and the proposals contain assess- ment criteria to evaluate the level of protection a supplier's 'heat supply agreement' pro- vides to customers. Tim Rotheray, director of the Association for Decentralised Energy, said: "As the role of dis- trict heating continues to grow in the UK, Heat Trust will be a vital tool to give peace of mind to heat customers." EnErgY Campaign boosts switching by 80% The number of households switching energy supplier has increased by 80 per cent since the same time last year, aer a government switching campaign. The Department of Energy and Climate Change said its 'Power to Switch' cam- paign, which launched in Febru- ary, has encouraged more than 130,000 consumers to switch. Figures also reveal a 60 per cent increase in dual fuel and a 193 per cent increase in savings for energy customers compared with the same period last year. Energy secretary Ed Davey said the increase "shows that people want better deals from energy providers – and our reforms to the market have driven competition and made that possible". EnErgY UKPN offers network connection advice UK Power Networks (UKPN) will from next month carry out one- to-one surgeries for customers that need technical advice on their electrical connections. The distribution network operator, which owns and oper- ates electricity networks in the East of England, London and the South East, is developing a service called 'ask the expert', aer feedback from customers at recent forums. UKPN's Mark Edwards, who manages the new initiative, said: "Customers told us they would like one-to-one discussions with us before they submit applica- tions for connections to the electricity network." Lower bills for customers who use electricity flexibly I am the customer Lewis Shand Smith "As ever, the vast majority of complaints relate to billing" Last month, Ombudsman Ser- vices handled 5,493 complaints about the energy sector. While that figure represents a fall compared to January 2015, it is still the second highest number of complaints we have received in a single month. It is 51 per cent more com- plaints than we received in February 2014, indeed last year it took until April to reach that number and until September in 2013. The number of complaints we have received this year has However, it is encourag- ing that we have had fewer complaints this month than in January, even when people are receiving their winter bills. Sys- tems issues at some firms have been a major contributing factor and as they improve we hope to see a further fall in queries. The bottom line, however, is that bills continue to rise year on year and people expect more for their money. Lewis Shand Smith is the chief ombudsman. already surpassed the total we received in the whole of 2012. As ever, the vast majority of complaints relate to billing in one way or another (85 per cent), with transfers coming in a distant second (11 per cent). Customers are frustrated by disputed charges, inaccurate invoices, not receiving a bill at all, erroneous back billing or failure to deliver refunds. As the sole ombudsman to the energy sector, our com- plaints reflect the widespread dissatisfaction by customers of the industry, so it's no surprise that as energy firms continue to occupy the headlines, we get more queries.

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