Utility Week

UTILITY Week 29th January 2016

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Customers This week Calls for action as Green Deals dwindle Number of energy efficiency plans in operation has fallen to lowest level since March 2014 The industry has called for action on energy efficiency aer the latest figures showed the number of active Green Deals is beginning to tail off. The former flagship initiative has seen the number of energy efficiency plans in operation fall to the lowest level since March 2014. In November 2015, the latest month for which figures are available, 729 Green Deal plans were installed. A total of 14,799 Green Deal plans were in operation, down from 15,138 the previous month, and from a high of 16,456 in July 2015. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) announced in July last year that there would be no further funding for the Green Deal. Launched in 2012/13, the initiative was intended to see energy efficiency meas- ures installed in tens of thousands of homes. The government has yet to confirm what measures will replace the Green Deal and its sister scheme for lower income households, the Energy Company Obliga- tion (Eco). Energy minister Lord Bourne recently told MPs that the replacement measures would focus on helping the fuel poor. Energy and Utilities Alliance chief executive Mike Foster told Utility Week there is "still an appetite among consumers for a green energy scheme" and called for future energy efficiency measures to be linked to the smart meter rollout. "Assessments were a great idea, but does it make sense while the smart meter rollout is going on?" he asked. SJ ENERGY Energy complaints increased in 2015 Complaints about energy compa- nies have continued to rise. Annual figures published by the ombudsman show the number of complaints in 2015 was 65,168, up 23 per cent from 52,937 in 2014. Billing issues continue to be the biggest problem, account- ing for 83 per cent of complaints. Switching supplier or tariff accounts for 10 per cent. Chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: "Energy com- plaints rose by nearly a quarter over the course of last year as customers continue to be more vocal about their discontent. "Towards the end of the year, we've seen some suppliers take some encouraging steps, particularly when it comes to improving their billing pro- cesses, but there's still more that can be done." WATER Call for consistency in social tariffs The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) is calling for a more "standard approach" to social tariffs. The group's chair, Alan Lovell, said the area of social tariffs is "frustrating", although most water companies "are trying". Speaking at the Utility Week Water Customer Conference on 20 January (p26), he said there was a "lack of consistency" in the way social tariffs are set, and CC Water wants to see more inte- gration with other agencies. According to the industry's representative body, Water UK, 14 of the 18 water companies have social tariffs, with the remaining four intending to have them in place this year. WATER Make non-domestic opening a priority Water companies need to "remain focused" on the opening of the market for non-household customers and not allow the possibility of household competition to affect current plans, Yorkshire Water chief executive Richard Flint has warned. Speaking in a panel discus- sion at the Utility Week Water Customer Conference (p26), Flint said there is "sufficient time" to get non-domestic retail market opening "done, and done well", so lessons can be learnt for any potential future implementation. "We've got 2017, which is a very hard date… to hit for market opening for non-domestic retail- ers – which is really important," he said. "Household would be bigger, it would be more difficult because there are more custom- ers involved," he added. "But we have to remain very focused on what is a very tight plan." Green Deal: replacement not yet confirmed I am the customer Andy White "Many slip into debt in a bid to stay on top of utility bills" Surviving January can be a battle for many households as the enjoyment of Christmas is replaced by a financial hangover and the sobering sight of credit card bills landing on doormats. Without help and advice, our research shows that many strug- gling customers will slip into debt or cut back on essentials, like food, in a desperate bid to stay on top of utility bills. At CCWater, we are committed to helping these customers keep their head above water, which is Of course, the tools will never be a substitute for the support and advice charities including Turn2us, StepChange and Citi- zens Advice can offer. But, with the industry's support, we hope they can play a significant role in ensuring fewer customers end 2016 blighted by water debt. For more information on our benefits calculator and grants search, visit www.ccwater.org.uk. Andy White, senior policy manager, Consumer Council for Water why we have formed a partner- ship with poverty relief charity Turn2us. Its support has enabled us to launch a free benefits calculator and grants search tool, to help customers identify ways to boost their income. We believe they will make a huge difference to many households, with estimates suggesting about a third of eligible people in the UK are not claiming the means- tested benefits they qualify for – an unclaimed income of around £24 billion a year. Many water companies have recognised this and we're delighted at the commitment already being shown to spread the word among their customers. UTILITY WEEK | 29TH JANUARY - 4TH FEBRUARY 2016 | 19

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