Are you a high energy user or a low energy user? Personally I fall into the latter category. Is it right that low energy users like me have to pay more per unit compared to people who consume more?
I live in a compact (OK, I mean small!) flat with two other people. We’re mainly out at work during the day and when we’re in, we take care to keep our energy use to a minimum.
We put on an extra jumper when it’s cold, turn off lights and always make sure that we turn the TV off at the wall when we’re not using it to prevent racking up a big and scary energy bill.
At this point you may be giving me a metaphorical pat on the back for being so energy conscious. But it appears that not everyone approves of my low usage. Despite what they say about promoting green ways of living and low consumption, energy companies seem to be punishing me for my energy-conserving habits.
Kilo-what? Using less, paying more
The problem is that I end up paying a higher average price per unit than a high energy user. Let me explain why: by charging substantially more for the first set of units in a ‘tiered tariff’ or by having an expensive daily ‘standing charge’, energy companies ensure they don’t make a loss from low-energy users like me.
They’re recouping the cost of getting the energy to my door, which they need to do, but I have no idea how much of this is actual cost or how much is extra profit made from low energy users. Ultimately this means that the less units you use, the higher the average cost of those units.
This seems very strange to me and makes me question if it’s a disincentive for people like me who try hard to save energy. Moreover, for many it’s a real problem – often low-energy users are some of the most vulnerable people, who may be in fuel poverty.
I recognise that fixed costs, which we all have to pay regardless of energy use, will probably represent a higher proportion of low users’ energy costs. However, I think that both Ofgem and energy companies need to ensure that the proportion of fixed costs is kept to a minimum and that there is adequate transparency over what these fixed costs are.
Help us tackle tariffs – email Ofgem
Our campaign to tackle tariffs addresses exactly that issue. The simple tariff that we’re proposing here at Which? means that everyone would pay a daily standing charge, set by Ofgem at the minimum possible amount to cover costs.
On top of that we’d pay for our units, meaning that we all pay the same for a kilowatt no matter how long we leave the lights on. I think that sounds fairer.
So if you want to join us in campaigning for fairer energy tariffs, email Ofgem using the box above and tell us what you think in the comments.
Do you feel penalised for being a low energy user? Or perhaps you have a large family and are grateful for the current system?