Utility Week

UTILITY Week 17th March 2017

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Customers UTILITY WEEK | 17TH - 23RD MARCH 2017 | 27 A senior figure at Ofgem has called for a public debate on how consumers pay for and make use of the UK's electricity networks. Moves to increase flexibility and squeeze the most out of existing infrastructure could otherwise allow "one group of customers to outbid another group of customers for access". "When we consider that capacity may be at a premium," ELECTRICITY Call for debate on need for grid to have 'priority access' system said Ofgem senior partner Andrew Wright, "allowing every- one to charge their vehicles and power their heat pumps without constraint could turn out to be prohibitively expensive for everyone and increasingly dif- ficult to manage on the system. "In the future, we may need to find new ways of paying for and providing access to the electricity system." Speaking at an event in Lon- don, Wright said those who want greater access to the grid to use a fast charger for their electric vehi- cle may need to pay more, but "people who want to accept some limits on their ability to consume large amounts of electricity when they want may be able to benefit in terms of prices". If consumers are allowed to pay extra for enhanced access to This week Help for vulnerable is scant in smart rollout Only three in ten suppliers give vulnerable cus- tomers one-to-one support with their new meter The support being given to vul- nerable customers in the smart meter rollout is insufficient and inconsistent, Citizens Advice has warned. A new report from the con- sumer champion, Smart Support, says that just three in ten suppli- ers provide one-to-one support for vulnerable customers, including those with physical or mental disabilities or learning difficulties, aer install- ing smart meters in their properties. Only one supplier has committed to appointing a single staff member to help them through their smart adoption journey. Victoria MacGregor, director of energy at Citizens Advice, said the charity is "concerned" about the find- ings because they could lead to vulnerable customers missing out on smart benefits. Lack of focused support for certain classes of vulnera- bility could also lead to individuals becoming distressed and confused by their new technology or the installation process, the report points out. "We want the govern- ment to make it a requirement for all energy suppliers to provide some ongoing support to vulnerable customers once their smart meter is installed," said MacGregor. The report recognises islands of good practice among suppliers in providing tailored assistance to vulnerable customers, but concludes that industry standards are inconsistent and that aspirations to provide support that goes beyond the requirements of the Smart Meter Instal- lation Code of Practice need to be raised. Citizens Advice has also called for more companies to conduct gap analysis in their definitions of vulnerability – especially those relating to learning difficulties, cus- tomers living in the private rented sector and customers lacking internet access. JG WATER Poor data risks 'disputes' in market Companies in the competi- tive water sector must "work together" to ensure that data being fed into the market's cen- tral operating system is correct. Failure to do so will lead to dis- putes and poor customer experi- ence, experts have warned. "The hard work is just begin- ning," said Waterscan managing director Neil Pendle, speaking at Water UK's City Conference last week. "The data is solid, but it is not perfect, and there is an awful lot to do on the data side so cus- tomers get a great experience." During a panel debate, Pendle said everything in the new market will revolve around data, and that if this is not right, it will lead to disputes between customers, brokers, retailers and wholesalers. "'Disputes' is an ugly word and we really don't want that," he said. "It will really hurt retailers if they don't get this data right." Outgoing MOSL chief execu- tive Ben Jeffs, also on the panel, said legacy data that has been collected over the past 20, 30 or 40 years may cause problems. ENERGY SSE dual fuel tariff to rise by £73 a year Big six energy company SSE has announced a 6.9 per cent increase to its standard dual fuel tariff. The supplier is the latest in a string of energy companies who have said that increasing costs mean passing price hikes on to customers is inevitable. SSE has blamed the price rise on increasing electricity prices. It will hold the price of its stand- ard gas tariff steady, but will increase its standard electricity tariff by 14.9 per cent. This will average out to a 6.9 per cent increase for dual fuel customers, equating to an addi- tional £73 a year on bills. The changes will come into effect on 28 April and will affect about 2.8 million SSE customers. WATER Savings will be 'more than expected' Water consultancy Waterscan has suggested savings returned to large multi-site customers in the competitive non-domestic water market will be "more than expected". Many commentators have pre- dicted that low margins for retail- ers in the English business water market will limit the amount of direct savings switching retailer will yield for customers. However, Waterscan manag- ing director Neil Pendle said at Water UK's City Conference last week that he was "pleasantly surprised" by the reasonable sav- ings the consultancy has seen. "We ran a tender for Sains- bury's, which will be announced very shortly, and the sort of savings they've got are much more than we'd expected – and as Waterscan, we were quite optimistic," he said in a debate. In-home device: technology could confuse the grid, then there will need to be "some sort of priority access for the basic needs for everyone". Wright warned that unless there is a public debate on network access "sooner rather than later", the UK risks ending up with a "completely unfettered market" that leaves some con- sumers "without access to the energy they need, when they need it and at prices they can't afford".

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