Because it’s Big Energy Week, we’ve asked key organisations, charities and energy companies what they think is the biggest problem in the energy market today. What will you make of their responses?
Not unexpectedly, their answers show a recurrence of the familiar themes we’ve talked about here on Which? Conversation, such as cost, complex tariffs and low trust in energy companies.
Energy prices rose a whopping 63% between 2000 and 2010, so it’s no wonder cost is a big issue for people. And as prices rise, it becomes harder for people to afford to heat their homes.
The rising cost of energy
Age UK’s charity director, Michelle Mitchell, picked out energy costs as her big concern:
‘The latest estimates show that there are now over 4.8 million older people of over 60 years of age who are fuel poor. These people are facing serious pressures on their meagre household budgets and are too often being faced with the choice of heating their homes or eating.’
Friends of the Earth agreed. Its senior energy campaigner, Paul Steedman, told us:
‘The yo-yoing price of gas, used for heating and to produce nearly half Britain’s electricity, has left families unable to plan their budgets.’
Complex tariffs and unclear bills
But it’s not just cost that means people are paying more than they should. Complex tariffs and unclear bills make it harder for people to know the true cost of their energy, which in turn makes it harder for them to choose a better tariff.
Ofgem’s Ian Marlee explained what Ofgem is doing to simplify energy tariffs:
‘Our review of the retail market found competition is being stifled by tariff complexity – which puts people off switching – as well as a lack of transparency and poor behaviour by suppliers.
‘We are proposing simpler tariffs so people can compare more easily to find the best deal for them; new rules to improve bills and annual statements; and tougher standards of conduct.’
‘To reduce confusion around tariffs energy suppliers need to make choosing the right tariff easier, and it’s vital they tell customers about the best deal available to them and promote all the help that is at hand. At the Energy Summit last year, energy companies committed to making this happen and we’re determined to see that it does.’
What does the energy industry think?
Energy UK, the umbrella body for all the energy companies, raised the problem of energy security as well as cost. But it’s not just what the energy industry can do can do, Energy UK explains that we can all make changes to help reduce our energy usage:
‘The key challenge is how to ensure we have the energy supplies that the UK needs, while keeping prices affordable for consumers and also ensuring a successful transition to a low carbon economy. Making our homes more energy efficient could be crucial to keeping our bills as low as possible while meeting the challenges ahead.’
We didn’t stop there – we’ve asked lots of other energy companies, charities and organisations about their big energy concerns. We’ll be posting their responses in the comments below.
So, now you’ve heard from them, it’s over to you – what do you think is the biggest problem in the energy market? And what can charities, energy companies and the government do to fix it?