Energy Affordability

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2013 Energy Service Group Conference
25 February 2013

UNISON has a proud and proven track record in campaigning against consumer exploitation by UK energy companies. We have had to make the difficult and often divisive arguments in speaking up for consumers against the vested interest of huge power company giants. This has often placed us in the difficult position of criticizing our employers whilst at the same time recognizing that our representatives have a need to forge a strong working relationship with the same employers to ensure members share in the rewards for their often life time commitment to the Industry.

At the same time we understand and accept the need for long term investment in energy generation capacity from private financiers, often foreign based. This is particularly important in ensuring we support a diverse mix of fuels including eco-friendly wind, tide and solar generation as well as the traditional coal (including clean coal technologies) and oil and gas fired stations.

However despite these considerations it remains clear that Energy prices continue to rise by inflation busting percentage price increases and the Big Seven Energy Companies are able to dominate the ‘’competitive market’’ to such an extent that price rises move ever steadily upwards almost at a whim and these companies are easily able to enhance and protect their considerable profits to the detriment of many hard pressed family households.

Fuel Poverty is now at its highest ever recorded level. The generally accepted definition of fuel poverty is a household that spends 10% of its income on domestic fuel. In the UK today it is calculated that 7-8 million customers are now in fuel poverty and this affects 10-12 million people living in households.

Our Industry Regulator OFGEM is either unable or unwilling to investigate whether the energy markets are being manipulated and the only Government response is an on the hoof declaration by David Cameron that power Companies must place customers on the most economic tariff. His quest for popularity was so fast that he had not even discussed it with his Energy Minister and his plans soon unravelled as Energy Executive after Energy Executive lined up to slate his initiatives as unworkable. Clearly Cameron’ s vested interest clashed with their own!

We call upon the Energy Service Group Executive to:-

i) Highlight the sustained and growing concerns about Fuel Poverty and to work with lobby groups to raise the awareness of the issue which is particularly unfair on poorer households and householders where home owners have special heating needs e.g. elderly occupants or disability needs.

ii) We request OFGEM to conduct an immediate feasibility study as to how individuals can be supported in seeking maximum clarification of their tariffs to ensure they are not being over charged and can make realistic judgements on tariff values. In this regard tariffs should be made simpler, both to understand and to compare Company rates.

iii) Provision needs to be afforded for vulnerable customers to ensure the industry recognizes this group and we call upon the Energy Executive to support Branches to encourage their members to contact their energy companies to ensure they are receiving the best deal from their energy supplier. There are schemes that are available to help people who are struggling with their fuel bills such as the Warm Homes Discount Scheme but Energy Suppliers do not always make this information clear for their customers when it is in their benefit for customers to apply for these payments.

iv) All members should be encouraged to look at their choice they have to change supplier and to seek the best deal around for them and we call upon the Energy Executive to approach the NEC with a view to working with UNISON Welfare to produce publicity that conveys this message to members