Public Ownership of Retail

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2023 National Energy Service Group Conference
20 February 2023

This Energy Service Group Conference welcomes the TUC report published in the summer of 2022. It builds on the pioneering work of UNISON in pushing the case for public ownership of energy retail. This is the part of the energy system that procures energy for householders up and down the country and is also the part in which the majority of UNISON’s energy members work.

We have been through a historic energy crisis in the UK with energy bills going through the roof and genuine concerns that security of supply was threatened. Householders have been left with higher bills that would have been crippling without massive state intervention that was unfunded, despite the huge profits of energy producers.

If UK homes had been more energy efficient at the outset of the crisis, some of the worst aspects would have been avoided and yet progress on this measure has been painfully slow.

The work of UNISON and the TUC advocates the reshaping of the UK’s energy system, to be more in line with our European neighbours that are finding it easier to weather the current crisis.

We believe that the Government should:

A. Take the Big 5 energy retailers and other failing retailers into public ownership, at a similar cost (under £2.85bn) to what has already been spent on keeping failed energy supplier Bulb in business.

B. Task publicly owned energy providers with offering a social tariff capped at 5% of income for low-income households.

C. Recognise that energy is a common good: restructure tariffs to provide all households with an initial free energy allowance and increase the cost per unit for high consumption households.

D. Protect all low-income households with fairer bills and a social tariff.

E. Deliver lower bills and a faster climate transition through the rapid rollout of fully funded home energy efficiency retrofits.

F. Ensure that energy is a public good and that energy retail is both democratically accountable and transparent.

G. Have a workforce development plan that can ensure we have enough skilled energy workers to deliver the necessary programs for decarbonising UK homes into the future.

Conference therefore asks the Energy Service Group Executive that it:

1. Continues to promote to all the stakeholders it works with at every opportunity the need to take into public ownership the energy retail sector of the UK energy landscape and the affordability of such a measure.

2. Promotes the important benefits of such a policy including the provision of decent energy jobs, decarbonisation of UK homes and affordable supply.

3. Specifically engages with Labour Link to ensure this policy is promoted as a key UNISON ask of any future Labour Government.

4. Produces a pamphlet highlighting the key benefits of public ownership of energy retail in a way that can be disseminated widely and used to promote this policy wide and far.