Energy companies blowing hot air when it comes to dealing with fuel poverty

London's largest electricity supplier needs to do more to help its customers

At the plenary last week, I received the full support of the London Assembly for my motion on the energy companies poor performance in London in dealing with fuel poverty. The motion was passed unanimously. For some time now, I’ve made the point that it won’t be the council tax or even the Mayor’s annual fare increases for Transport which hit family budgets the hardest, but it is the energy price hikes of up to 18 per cent which will make the biggest dent in household expenditure, especially for London households. This issue is further compounded by the postcode lottery which is also prevalent in the energy price market, as firms charge up to £180 more in some areas with the best deals to be found in Brighton, Bristol and Leeds. According to London Councils, we already have 1 in 4 households living in fuel poverty. In addition, we are warned (David Blair in FT 10.10.11) that if energy bills remain on their current path, the average household will be in fuel poverty by 2015. In 2008, the Environment Committee produced a report called “Lagging behind – Insulating homes in London”. This report noted then, the poor performance in London of insulating homes. We asked the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to reconsider the rules around CERT (carbon emission reduction targets) in order to address the lower funding delivery in London, as part of the measures to bring forward measures to insulate the hard to treat homes. Therefore this is not a new problem, however, it has been compounded by the esculating fuel prices which are now disporportionate with household incomes.  As for the largest energy company in London, EDF, their performance has been lamentable. Even the industry journal “Uility Week” commented, that out of all the major energy suppliers, EDF achieved the second lowest proportion of its overall obligations in the third year of CERTs. This obliges suppliers to reduce carbon emissions by providing customers with measures such as loft insulation. Instead, we have seen a bombardment of energy efficient electric light bulbs landing on our doormat! Incidentally, the fourth year of the CERT programme ends on the 31st of March 2012 hence the adverts for insulation suddenly appearing in the Evening Standard. So while energy company shareholders are enjoying record profits, London consumers are getting fleeced. We desparately need DECC & OFGEM, the regulator, to take on the greed of the energy companies and to put the interests of London energy consumers first.

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