Utility Week

UTILITY Week 10th March 2017

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4 | UTILITY WEEK | 10TH - 16TH MARCH 2017 | UTILITY WEEK Energy complaints fall Data published jointly by Ofgem and the Energy Ombudsman has revealed that the total number of complaints by domestic energy consumers fell by a third last year. 32% Amount by which complaints from domestic energy consumers fell in 2016. 3 This was the lowest number of complaints in three years. 3.5m Number of complaints in 2016. 5m Number of complaints in 2015. 90% Most large and medium-sized suppliers solved more than 90 per cent of complaints within eight weeks. £50m Penalties imposed by Ofgem for poor customer service. STORY BY NUMBERS 'Shock' bills and 'alarming' letters mar smart rollout Seven days... T he number of complaints submitted to Citizens Advice relating to smart meters has almost trebled since 2014, a spokesperson for the consumer body has said. The top three areas for complaints cover: bills or usage increasing, or backdated billing, following the installation of a meter; perceived inability to switch suppliers or difficulty in switching following installation; and inaccurate information and sales practices by suppliers. Speaking at a smart metering conference hosted by Policy UK last week, Daniel Walker-Nolan, principal policy manager at Citizens Advice, said that given the looming ramp-up in smart meter installation rates, it is likely complaints will continue to increase sharply. On the first major complaint area, Walker-Nolan said Citi- zens Advice has seen multiple instances of customers who have had estimated bills for years being issued "shock" back bills aer their smart meter was fitted. Furthermore, he said: "Citi- zens Advice does not believe [these bills] come up to scratch in terms of regulations, which say that if it is not the con- sumer's fault they can only be backbilled for up to a year." In another scenario that has caused alarm, Walker-Nolan said customers paying by direct debit have seen their payments increase sharply aer meter installation. When they queried this with their supplier, they were ignored and unable to get someone to come out and check the meter for a fault. The second biggest area of complaint was around switch- ing, and specifically customers not being warned that early SMETS1 meters would likely not be compatible between different suppliers. The third complaint category covered misinformation and bad sales practices, with what Walker-Nolan described as "alarming" supplier tactics in the race to roll out meters before 2020. Some suppliers are send- ing letters telling customers they "have to have" a smart meter, which risked "poisoning the world for consumer uptake of smart meters". JG National media UK CO2 at all-time low The UK has beaten its climate change target for 2020 aer car- bon emissions fell to their lowest level since the general strike shut down industry in 1926. Last year the closure of three coal-fired power stations and the steelworks at Redcar, North York- shire, contributed to a 6 per cent fall in emissions. The fall reflected a shi from coal to gas to generate electricity, with coal use halving in one year, according to Carbon Brief, a web- site focusing on climate change. The Times, 7 March Ex-Tesla execs to set up battery factory Two former Tesla executives are aiming to set up Europe's first big battery factory. Peter Carlsson, a Swede who was the former supply chain head at Tesla, announced plans to set up a $4 billion factory in one of the Nordic countries, using in part metals mined in the region. "If nobody does anything, Europe is going to be completely dependent on an Asian supply chain," he told the Financial Times. Financial Times, 6 March Low payout on Scots interconnector A billion pound undersea power cable project has been criticised aer bosses paid out just 0.0011 per cent of the total cost in com- munity support in Scotland. The Western Link is a joint venture between National Grid and Scottish Power Transmission to carry electricity from Scottish wind- farms to consumers in the south. It can also be used to bring energy from English and French nuclear power stations to Scotland when the wind is not blowing. Despite the huge investment, project bosses have paid only £11,000 to help worthy ventures in and around Hunterston in Ayrshire, where the cable comes ashore. The Express, 5 March

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