Chris Huhne MP writes: Check, switch, insulate to save

No government can control volatile world energy prices. But we can still help people get their energy bills down. So today I am bringing together industry, consumer groups and the regulator Ofgem for an energy summit that will focus on getting people the help they need to reduce their bills in time for this winter.

As Liberal Democrats we have long argued that in the long run the only way to reduce bills is to improve energy saving in our homes, and to invest in more energy generation at home to end our reliance on imported fossil fuels. But there are steps everyone can take today. Working with our Consumer Minister Ed Davey we have launched a new campaign to help consumers ‘check, switch and insulate to save’.

Across the country Liberal Democrat activists are joining the campaign to help people Save Money, Stay Warm and Go Green. From today easy advice will be available at the Directgov website.

The summit today will be announcing direct help for consumers:

  • the Government will write to four million vulnerable households in Great Britain informing them that they are eligible for free loft and cavity walls insulation
  • energy suppliers have agreed to write to all eight million of their consumers who could save up to £100 by changing their payments to direct debit
  • energy suppliers have agreed to provide customers with their energy usage data in electronic format by the first half of 2012, making it much easier for people to switch and find tariffs tailored to their individual levels of energy use
  • Ofgem will develop recommendations on how to improve conduct and transparency in consumer energy markets, with a report due before the end of this year.

From next year the Liberal Democrat Green Deal will offer improved insulation for everyone at no upfront cost and by the end of 2012 we will ensure that 3.5 million householders benefit. We have also increased the electricity bill discounts available for the fuel poor by two-thirds, guaranteeing £120 off their bills to more than 600,000 of our most vulnerable pensioners. And an expert working group will report jointly to Ed Davey and me early next year on enabling greater collective purchasing and switching in the energy market.

Today’s summit is to be just the start of a much more active engagement with consumers, with all of us working harder and faster to deliver an energy market that is trusted, simple and transparent. In meeting our climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiencies goals, I am determined that everything that can be done will be done to help people bring their energy bills down.

If you use twitter you can share the ‘check, switch and insulate to save’ message and follow developments through the day using the #energysummit hashtag, or by following @DECCgovuk.

Chris Huhne has written a joint article with the Prime Minister at MoneySavingExpert.com.

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15 Comments

  • Found this disapointing there seems to be a question that no one including chris will adress.

    When profiteering utility companies are behaving in an oligarchic fashion with regards to an essential service and engaging in deliberate ‘price confusion’ with complex tariffs. Why does the government not simply bring back price caps ? Surely the Liberal democrats have not been taken in by the by the dogmatic unfettered free market approach ?

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Oct '11 - 12:01am

    Why does the government not simply bring back price caps ?

    Because replacing a private monopoly with a government monopoly doesn’t accomplish a damn thing, while regulating to eliminate the problematic behaviour actually works. Which is what they’re doing.

  • I rent a very nice, but rather old, flat with single glazing and iffy insulation.My landlord won’t upgrade the windows or insulate as they insist that the costs of doing so are greater than the value it would add to the property.
    Also, and this is not unusual, I have a prepay meter. If I want to change this I need written permission from my landlord and I am expected to pay for it myself.

    Many people are in my situation and these government proposals will not help.

  • “Because replacing a private monopoly with a government monopoly doesn’t accomplish a damn thing …”

    It wouldn’t be a “government monopoly” in any sense whatsoever. It would be the government taking action against an abuse of the market.

  • Resident Tory 18th Oct '11 - 2:33pm

    This website is well worth a look, it is an EU website that compares energy prices across the EU. It is totally impartial.
    http://www.energy.eu/#Domestic
    With reference to this information, maybe Chris Huhne would like to explain the following:
    1. Why do we have the highest diesel fuel taxes and second highest (Netherlands just pips us) petrol taxes in Europe? Just check out the table titled ‘Fuel taxes’ if your blood pressure can stand it.
    2. Why do we have by miles and miles the highest feed-in tariff for renewable electricity in Europe? Check out the table ‘Feed in Tariffs’, at 0.41 Euro per kWh for p.v. solar – which, incidentally, the rest of us are forced to pay for in our electricity bills?
    3. Has he heard of Shale Gas, and if not why not? Britain is sitting on colossal reserves of gas, enough for the next century, why is our Energy Secretary so far behind the curve?
    4. Is he going to apologise for “Both Sides of the Coin: The Arguments For the Euro and European Monetary Union”, which he co-authored in 2002?
    5. In view of Vince Cable’s admirable statements to the effect that abject failure should not be rewarded, is Chris Huhne going to have the decency to resign over the above-mentioned book?
    Just a few thoughts you may like to ponder.

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Oct '11 - 7:50pm

    With reference to this information, maybe Chris Huhne would like to explain the following:

    Protip: he would most likely not.

    1. Why do we have the highest diesel fuel taxes and second highest (Netherlands just pips us) petrol taxes in Europe?

    To discourage pollution and generate revenue. As is often repeated: you don’t want to tax goods, you want to tax bads. It’s a really good idea to shift the tax burden onto behaviour that you want to discourage, like cars.

    2. Why do we have by miles and miles the highest feed-in tariff for renewable electricity in Europe?

    To encourage the construction of renewable electricity generation. By symmetry, it’s a good idea to ensure the market benefits behaviour that you want to encourage.

    Has he heard of Shale Gas, and if not why not? Britain is sitting on colossal reserves of gas, enough for the next century, why is our Energy Secretary so far behind the curve?

    A rather foolish assumption there. I’m pretty sure that he does follow the news. Probably a little better than you do, to the point of having seen the responding story on the following day: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/23/us-gas-blackpool-idUSTRE78M3J820110923

    In any event, energy policy is not changed in a span of less than a month following a completely unsubstantiated claim made to the press.

    Is he going to apologise for “Both Sides of the Coin: The Arguments For the Euro and European Monetary Union”, which he co-authored in 2002?

    Magic 8-ball says: outlook not good.

    In view of Vince Cable’s admirable statements to the effect that abject failure should not be rewarded, is Chris Huhne going to have the decency to resign over the above-mentioned book?

    No, he is going to indecently continue doing his job rather than wasting time on a self-important hack.

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Oct '11 - 7:51pm

    Boo, HTML fail.

  • Old Codger Chris 18th Oct '11 - 9:29pm

    Extra insulation is very welcome and long overdue.

    But when it comes to pricing the Government is feeble. They can cap the TV licence and force the BBC to fund the World Service and S4C but energy suppliers are allowed to ramp up prices and profits.

    Consider – the BBC doesn’t have shareholders (except the British public – mere stakeholders) and money men want to see it damaged. The chief responsibility of energy suppliers is to their shareholders, British or foreign.

  • I’ve checked, I’ve switched (and what a mistake that was) and insulated but am still unable to afford to switch the heating on.

  • Legislate to allow each supplier only 3 tarrifs each and stop them with this price confusion. Its a waste of everyone’s time to have a system where every 3 months you have to go on the web, discover the secret tariff name and then phone up your supplier and ask to be switched onto the “bingo super 12 top save economy platinum tariff”. Suppliers should spend more money hardening the electricity distribution network against bad weather and increasing storage capacity for Gas so we are less vulnerable to having it cut off by Russia, and less money on stupid marketing and price confusion strategies that beggar us all. If there is another crisis like with Ukrainian gas and Huhne has done nothing to prepare for it, I’ll be calling for his head. We have less days stored than almost any other large country, the foreign owned energy companies will only do something about this if the government forces them.

  • Old Codger Chris 19th Oct '11 - 12:21pm

    Alistair is right. Handing over our energy supplies to foreign money-men was unbelievably irresponsible. Having done so, our elected representatives need to stand up for our interests (that would make a nice change).

    Incidentally I switched shortly before the latest increases – not to the cheapest but to the one with the longest “no increase” guarantee. That didn’t stop a doorstep salesman trying to convince me I should switch to the (temporarily) cheaper tariff he was pedalling, telling me that prices might go down as well as up (fortunately I do read proper newspapers). We are allowing people to be conned.

  • There is little point in switching if all the Utility companies raise proces within weeks of each other. The plethora of tariffs are designed to confuse. It’s no coincidence that they all do it. There is no chance that Joe Public could know whether a long-term fixed price offered now is a good deal or not. These companies buy in advance. As for insulation .. there are limits to what this brings. My mum is 87 – she is in an insulated house – but she is petrified by energy costs and it is a battle with her to put the heating on. At 87 she remebers MANWEB offering a peak and off-peak (white meter tariff). That made some rational sense. Does Huhn seriously think that everyone has the capability to understand all of this and to make arrnagements not least given the problems in the rental sector as highlighted above. We are being ripped off and there is NO prospect of this Govt doing anything other than patronising us as if it is our fault we pay too much. There are many vulnerable peole who will suffer this winter – stress and hypothermia is all that is on offer.

  • @resident Tory

    That website might be completely impartial – but clearly you aren’t. I found feed-in tariffs higher than the UK in Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luzembourg, Netherlands and Portugal. In fact only five countries had lower ones (though 11 did not use the policy).

    On top of which , FITs are deigned to stimulate an industry. You set them high to get the industry up and running, and as prices fall with the building of supply lines and expertises (as well as falling solar panel costs in this case) you taper the subsidies away.

    No one has a problem with this – the problem is a 50-70% cut in 6 weeks time is not tapering, it is a cliff edge. And the solar industry will be badly set back if it goes over it.

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