Thursday, 20 August 2009

Energy Retail Association in bid to block bill-cutting device

Ben Webster, Environment Editor
Energy companies are trying to block a government proposal to install devices in every home that would cut the average annual energy bill by £130.
The Energy Retail Association (ERA), which represents British Gas, EDF, npower and the other main suppliers, is lobbying ministers against the idea of installing a £15 digital display that would tell people exactly how much their energy is costing them.
The displays, which are wireless and can be moved anywhere in the home, would also allow people to compare the energy usage of different devices and instantly see the savings made by not leaving TVs and computers on standby.
The Local Government Association (LGA) accused the companies of trying to sabotage a policy proposal that would not only save people money but result in a huge reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA environment board, said: “If energy firms succeed in blocking this plan to give people in-home energy monitors, millions of households will be denied the chance to cut their fuel bill. Energy displays help people change how they use electricity, cut back and save money.
“The plan to put a smart meter in every home is good but unless it is accompanied by an in-home energy display, for consumers, it is virtually worthless. What you can see, you can save. Why not give people all the information so they can make better choices about how much energy they use?”
The Government has pledged to install so-called smart meters in every home by 2020. These meters use the mobile phone network to send details of usage back to the companies, meaning they will no longer need meter readers.
The companies are keen to install the meters because they will save them £306 million a year in meter-reading costs and make it easier for them to reject customer complaints about overcharging. But they have written to the Department of Energy and Climate Change saying that they do not want to be obliged to issue a display with every smart meter.
A spokesman for the association said that its members wanted to be allowed to give information about usage to customers in various ways, including via e-mail and text message.
“The ERA and its members firmly believe that energy companies should not be restricted to providing a one-size-fits-all solution, but should be allowed to innovate and offer customers precisely the kind of display they would find most useful — whether this is with a display unit, via a website, or even through a mobile phone application.”
Research by the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University shows that in-home energy display monitors can help people reduce their fuel bills by between 5 and 15 per cent.
On current energy bills which, according to, average £1,293, a 10 per cent cut would result in householders saving nearly £130 a year.