On the 4th June 2015, the Chancellor, George Osborne announced £4 ½ billion of cuts including £70 million to be cut from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) budget.
The Carbon Brief released a report previous to this on the 3rd June 2015 highlighting the limited scope for cuts within the DECC and the potential impact if cuts did take place.
With the Conservative government promising to decrease public spending, whilst protecting health, pensions and education, unprotected departments such as the DECC are likely to be the focus for cuts.
Impact of cuts
Carbon Brief analysed the 2013/14 budget of the DECC which was £3.4 billion. The money spent on managing the UK’s military nuclear waste and decommissioning legacy accounts for 65% of this budget. The core departmental priorities accounts for the remaining 34%.
The Carbon brief concluded that 87% of the overall budget was essential and would not be eligible for cuts. This 87% is made up of costs relating to the nuclear legacy, international agreements and legal liabilities from formerly nationalised energy industries. Therefore, 13% of the budget could potentially be cut from the DECC’s budget. Currently, 2% (£70 million) of their budget has already been cut.
The impact of these cuts will mean there is less money to dedicate to research on energy and climate change as well as schemes to help people out of fuel poverty.
One example of a scheme which the Carbon Brief suggests is likely to be cut is Green Deal. This a government scheme lead by the DECC which helps people find the best way to pay for energy saving improvements they want to make to their homes including energy grants, like the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. These improvements can include insulation, heating, double glazing and renewable energy sources which can help reduce long-term energy costs. Without the support of the government, less people will have access to the funding needed to make important improvements to their homes.
Importance of community energy
When the government is demonstrating that they are willing to make cuts to energy and climate change services, the need for community energy projects becomes clear.
Community energy projects which favour renewable energy sources can help to create a more secure energy future for the community in addition to helping reduce the impact of climate change.
Access to cost-efficient local energy benefits all members of the community but is especially essential to people who are living in fuel poverty.
BHESCo has helped more than 200 people switch their energy supplier from November 2014 to February 2015 to help them save money by switching energy suppliers. This process is made overly complex by energy suppliers who resist for reasons that are not obvious the customer. In this example, the customer was blocked from switching by the previous tenant’s supplier, First Utility, to the supplier of their choice.
What was the switching problem?
This person moved into a new flat in Hove at the beginning of March 2015 and approached EDF to be his energy supplier eleven days later. He wanted to change from the previous tenant’s energy supplier, First Utility. EDF informed them a couple of weeks later that this switch was unable to take place and stated “your current energy supplier isn’t allowing us to transfer you and we’re not sure why”.
First Utility was contacted and they stated that the account was not live. However, even after three subsequent attempts EDF had still not been allowed to make the switch by May 2015. This was two months after the initial attempt to change supplier.
Following this, First Utility was contacted numerous times by this person in an effort the make this switch possible. Each time a new excuse was given and his call was transferred to multiple teams, none of which were able to provide an explanation for the blocked switch or advice on how to proceed.
Finally, at the end of May there was a promise that the case would be escalated to the complaints department and they would receive the information they needed within the next five days.
How was it resolved?
Eventually, this person sought written communication from First Utility that they would be allowed to switch to the energy supplier they wanted. Additionally, he chose to pursue financial compensation to account for the five hours spent trying to resolve the issue which meant he was unable to complete paid freelance work.
Listen up First Utility!
Customers have a right to switch to an energy supplier of their choice. Attempts to block or complicate the switching process represents poor customer care will discourage customers from using your services in the future.