Energy comparison websites that “make the grade” can now display a Confidence Code ‘badge’ which tells consumers they can trust the sites’ advice.
Ofgem proposed making the changes to the voluntary code of practice after its research found more consumers are using comparison sites to shop around for the best energy deals and switch suppliers.
It revealed 31% of people used a comparison service to move to a different energy company this year – up from 26% last year.
We already knew the uptake by the public was less than expected, and last week we heard how small businesses were also shirking away from it, and now a parliamentary committee has dubbed the government’s Green Deal a ‘disappointing failure’.
A group of MPs was called upon to evaluate the loan scheme, which was designed to help update Britain’s ageing and energy-inefficient housing stock, and gave their verdict on Monday as part of the Energy and Climate Change select committee on Monday.
Launching in January 2013, the Green Deal started out as a loan arrangement, but even an early 2014 revamp to the payback structure of the program couldn’t turn fortunes around, the committee said yesterday.
Flawed planning, poor implementation and unclear messaging were three of the key factors that MPs said held the Green Deal back from helping drive down commercial energy costs through less draughty homes and businesses.
Greg Barker, the former energy minister who launched the scheme, said that he would have ‘sleepless nights if 10,000 households hadn’t signed up by the end of 2013’; as of the end of July 2014, less than 4,000 homes had signed up.
“With such extremely low levels of take-up eighteen months into the life of the policy, the Green Deal has so far been a failure,” the committee says.
The report of the Warburton inquiry, commissioned by Australia’s government as a hatchet job on the renewable electricity industry, has unintentionally demonstrated that renewables pose a real alternative to coal-fired electricity and are undermining the viability of incumbent generators.
But can renewable energy provide a solution to the problem of decarbonising the economy? To understand the problems and the process, it is worth thinking about the “paperless office”.
The paperless office started out as a visionary idea. In turn, it became a marketing slogan and a target of derision. Now, after four decades, it is finally becoming a reality.
The development of minicomputers and word processors in the 1970s led some farsighted thinkers to realise that computers would eventually have the same impact on office work, based on text, as they had already had on numerical tasks like payroll calculation. The phrase “the paperless office” came to prominence in a 1975 Businessweek article, The Office of the Future.
Twenty years later as personal computers became ubiquitous, the cost of storage plummeted, and email became generally available, it seemed that the time was right.
But supporters of paper started to push back, with arguments that are now familiar. Paper has marvellous properties that can’t be reproduced by any computer system. It is light, accessible anywhere, and (at least in its acid-free archival form) lasts forever. It can be read in any light, and annotated with ease. Improved technology, it was claimed, would lead to more paper, not less.
A new survey carried out by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) has found that almost a third of it’s members said the cost of energy was a barrier to growth for their company.
Carried out across the 8,000 FSB members, the survey revealed that the cost of electricity, water and gas for their business remains a significant concern for owners. With little spare capital to invest in renewable energy solutions such as solar panels, it seems that as many corporations are able to make grandstand launches of energy efficiency measures (like Microsoft’s solar-powered offices or Google’s wind-turbine-fuelled data centres) smaller businesses are being left behind.
According to Mike Cherry, FSB national policy chairman, the options for smaller businesses are limited.
“Small firms do have the appetite to be more energy efficient, namely because of the obvious benefits to keeping the cost of doing business down. However, for firms to take on energy efficient measures in real numbers, they need the payback to be quick and the upfront costs to be small.
Hospitals are being asked to share how prepared they are – if at all – for climate change by the NHS’s Sustainable Development Unit (SDU).
The query comes after warnings nine in ten hospital wards are at risk of overheating because of climate change-related rising temperatures. The worrying research for the Committee on Climate Change was published in July.
Ability to control ward temperatures is often limited, pointed out the subcommittee of the CCC behind the report, advising that the Care Quality Commission should consider setting standards for maximum temperatures in hospitals.
Following on from last month’s news that Wales would be testing a UK-first tidal wave generator as part of a new commercial energy development, Scotland are building what they are already calling the ‘World’s Biggest’ tidal array.Currently in the midst of an ongoing independence debate, Scotland have been dragging up the UK’s renewable energy percentage with a number of innovative projects, of which the new Pentland Firth installation will be the latest.
Suppliers will only be able to work with third party intermediaries (TPIs) and energy brokers if they are signed up to a new Code of Practice, under plans unveiled by the energy regulator Ofgem.
TPIs and brokers are an important route to market for non-domestic consumers as the majority of energy contracts are negotiated through them. These organisations help businesses by facilitating energy purchasing contracts between supplier and consumer; many independent or new entrant suppliers use them almost exclusively to reach new customers. But concerns have been raised that some of these TPIs use high-pressure sales tactics or give misleading information.
Ofgem has outlined plans to change the rules surrounding non-domestic automatic roll-overs and contract renewals.
No ban in sight
Automatic roll-overs occur when a business customer is migrated to a new contract in the event that they do not take action to negotiate a new deal or switch. Currently suppliers are permitted to automatically place existing fixed-term business customers onto a further fixed 12-month period if the customer does not contact the supplier to terminate their contract.
The company has issued its winter outlook consultation, with this year’s draft forecast exhibiting a wider range of scenarios as a result of tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
In assessing the winter of 2013-14, the report, published on 31 July, stated that the six-month period from October to March was the fifth warmest on record and had the warmest “cold day” in 86 years. Higher than average temperatures helped lower power and gas demand across the winter months – gas demand fell to its lowest level in seven years. This low demand picture impacted supplies, with gas storage remaining high throughout the winter.
Escalating Russia/ Ukraine tensions and unexpected nuclear outages supported rises in power and gas prices in August, as contracts saw their first monthly increases this year.
Following on from the crash of flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine in July, geo-political tensions have dominated market focus. Sanction announcements by Europe, Ukraine and Russia have heightened gas security of supply fears for the winter-ahead.