Utility Week

UTILITY Week 21st April 2017

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Customers 26 | 21ST - 27TH APRIL 2017 | UTILITY WEEK One-third of industrial energy users plan to spend more than £1 million on smart and distrib- uted energy technology by 2022, a survey has shown. PwC's study of 500 UK busi- nesses revealed growing interest among business energy custom- ers for investing in technolo- gies to reduce usage, promote security of supply and support decarbonisation. ENERGY UK firms show spending appetite for smart energy technology The survey also revealed that 55 per cent expect their energy supplier to help them with their investment plans, and that almost one-fih of industrial and commercial firms want their investments to make them less dependent on the national grid. Commenting, PwC's head of power and utilities Steve Jennings said energy companies had a "major" role to play in building confidence in smart technologies and enabling a "smart business revolution". But he warned that suppliers "must move fast if they are to make the most of this trust and grow market share". Other findings from PwC's research are that one in five commercial energy users plans to make significant smart energy investments within five years. This week New data rules should aid fuel poor Proposed legislation will let government departments share some data about citizens New legislation for better use of government data should deliver a "break- through" in support for the fuel poor, the chair of Com- mittee on Fuel Poverty (CFP) has told Utility Week. If approved by parlia- ment, new rules will allow certain data about UK citi- zens to be shared between departments from 2018, explained committee chair David Blakemore. The "better use of data in government" programme is "fundamental to the success of our [fuel poverty] strat- egy. Because otherwise we are using statistically gener- ated numbers and using proxies to identify addresses," he said. According to Blakemore, the data legislation would allow around 60 per cent of the estimated 2.4 million UK households classed as fuel poor to be identified by address. Because this is not currently possible, govern- ment funding aimed at helping the UK's most needy is "poorly targeted". It is thought just 10 per cent of the funds available through schemes such as the Energy Company Obligation (Eco) and the winter fuel payment reach those living in fuel poverty. He said Eco money was also poorly targeted because it had become a vehicle for tackling emission reductions too and this was sometimes a "difficult conflict". Blakemore was keen not to lay all responsibility for better action on fuel poverty at the government's door, however. He said there was more that suppliers, and other groups such as health professionals and social workers, could do to identify individuals in particular need of support. JG ENERGY Utilita chalks up 500,000 customers Energy supplier Utilita has secured its 500,000th customer, more than doubling its size in 2015. Utilita specialises in the provision of pay-as-you-go tariffs for smart meters and claims it is now the fastest growing independent energy retailer in the UK. Commenting on the latest milestone, the company's chief executive, Bill Bullen, said Util- ita has seen "exceptional growth – welcoming around 10,000 new customers a week – but to reach half a million is a real landmark for us". As customer numbers have swelled, Utilita has also increased its staff. The number of people employed by the firm doubled in just over a month aer it opened a new call centre in Derbyshire. PAN-UTILITY Energy retailer sets sights on water Yu Water has made a bid to enter the UK non-household water retail market. The company has applied to Ofwat for a water supply licence, which would allow it to supply water retail services only. Yu Water is a subsidiary of independent business energy supplier Yu Energy, which was established in April 2014, and the company said it wants to become "the UK's most innova- tive energy supplier". Most energy suppliers are unconvinced that the business water market will be worth the effort and say they have "no plans" to compete. In a straw poll conducted by Utility Week in February, only Yu Energy, D-Energi, Xcel Energy and Corona Energy said they had plans to enter the water market. Meanwhile, BES Utilities, Flogas and Robin Hood Energy said "maybe". ELECTRICITY Consumer code extended to cover home batteries The Solar Trade Association has backed a move by the Renew- able Energy Consumer Code (Recc) to cover home battery storage systems, following reports of people being mis-sold systems. The organisers behind Recc said the code would now include storage systems and related items, which are typically sold alongside solar panels. Virginia Graham, the chief executive of Renewable Energy Assurance (which administers Recc), said there was "already mis-selling and confusion among customers", and "we are aiming to ensure that this is avoided going forward". According to Recc, the organ- isation received one complaint a week about battery storage during 2016, and the total so far this year stands at 13. Government aid is currently 'poorly targeted' However, across both indus- trial and commercial energy users, the survey revealed con- cern about the payback on smart energy investments. Sixty-three per cent of respondents said they had doubts in this area. "Costs are a prime concern for UK firms, as is their lack of confidence in the speed at which returns will materialise," said Jennings.

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