Environmental group Friends of the Earth has accused the UK government of “papering over the cracks of our broken energy system”.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that energy companies will be required to inform their customers about the best tariffs available either on request or on an annual basis.
“Clegg’s admission that we can’t control world energy prices points to the real problem for energy customers – that just six big energy firms have us hooked on dirty, expensive, imported gas,” says campaigner Paul Steedman.
Instead of “papering over the cracks”, the government should invest in making the country’s homes more efficient and switch to wind, solar and marine renewable energy, says the group.
Meanwhile, recent research by YouGov SixthSense found that 84% of UK customers agree that energy suppliers put profits before customers. And over half agreed that “energy suppliers treat people with contempt”.
“The strength and negativity of feeling regarding the energy companies’ profits is clearly demonstrated,” says research director James McCoy.
“The findings suggest that many people are more outraged by the profits being made than by their actual energy bill.”
But the research also indicated that one in five customers has difficulty paying their energy bills and a third has made cutbacks to pay their bills.
Business lobby group the CBI, however, welcomed Clegg’s words arguing the case for a green economy to bring cost savings and opportunities for new growth.
“This pledge by energy companies is a positive step, which together with the Green Deal, will make a real difference to the energy bills of consumers and businesses in difficult times,” says policy director Katja Hall. “With the right policies in place, the government can give investors the confidence they need to inject billions of pounds into our energy infrastructure and create thousands of jobs.”
And while consumer organisation Which? agreed that making it easier for consumers to switch tariff is a step in the right direction, Clegg will have to do much more to convince consumers to undertake a Green Deal loan to pay for energy efficiency measures.
“There is widespread distrust of the energy industry and real anger at the way it has treated its customers for many years, with consumers collectively overpaying £4 billion a year for their energy by not switching to the cheapest prices,” says executive director Richard Lloyd.
For further information:
UK Deputy Prime Ministers promises consumers help to cut energy bills (11-Apr)
UK Energy Minister hails Green Deal in run up to launch (21-Mar)
Fuel poverty serious national problem, says independent UK report (16-Mar)
UK home insulation levels making slow progress (8-Mar)
12 April 2012