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The week Govt woke up

Submitted by: MikeC (Admin) on 01-Jun-08 09:26:30 PM

No one could hardly have escaped this week's media-coverage of energy-related news:

  • hauliers clogging up the roads demanding fuel duty reductions (the same as asking for more oil supplies, essentially);
  • the Prime Minister pressing oil execs in Scotland for greater North Sea oil production - getting just 50-70,000 barrels/day extra, sometime in the next 2-3 years (Incidentally, just a day earlier, Nautical Petroleum reported that the Selkie exploration well in the North Sea was dry);
  • the sudden simultaneous loss of seven (or sixteen, depending on which report you read) ageing power generators across the country, resulting in power cuts to around 500,000 homes and reduced voltages across much of the grid (Indeed, if it wasn't for the French propping us up via a thick cable across The English Channel, things could have gotten quite precarious);
  • more talks on the push to nuclear (10-20 years to complete - Current ageing generators due to be decommissioned within 10 years);
  • Gordon Brown admitting (at last) that oil prices are likely to remain high in the long term;
  • and more fuel protesters on the roads yesterday (Saturday).

It's all been a sobering reminder of how just how vulnerable we are on this island, and how urgent our need is to cut down on wasteful energy consumption.

All the more reason why you might expect a real step-change in Government action.

Government energy announcements

Instead, all we got, in typical knee-jerk style, were a few announcements which do little other than pick at the edges:

  • Talk of helping pensioners and the poor switch to cheaper energy tariffs; in the process, weakening privacy laws to allow energy companies to identify pensioners from Government-held data - nice way to build up your sales database.
  • Tasking Warmfront to refer 3,000 grant applicants to energy companies for advice on switching energy tariff.
  • £150,000 to train frontline advisers at the Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) on - guess? - raising awareness on switching energy tariffs.

A more positive, and meaningful, announcement was £3 million "of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) funds directed towards a pilot fuel poverty workstream" (quoted from DEFRA announcement) - Which kind'a sounds like money redirected, to me, but anyway, this is aimed towards introducing fuel-saving microgeneration to fuel-poor communities.

(Let me say now: reading that DEFRA announcement will be hard work if you should wish to explore the numerous schemes mentioned within - You will be bounced from one site to another... and back again. God only knows how anyone makes a grant application, let alone discover they exist.)

One other announcement ministers were keen to talk about: £275 million from energy companies to help pensioners and the poor lower their fuel bills in the form of advice (energy tariffs, perchance?) and insulation grants.

Finding details of what exactly this £275 million will do in practice, and whether this is actually additional new money - ie. not taken from elsewhere - is difficult.

Summing up

According to Energywatch, there are around 4 million people currently in fuel poverty. If we assume this to be the group of people who will be the target benefactors of this £275 million, it amounts to £68.75 per person. There are six major energy suppliers so if we divide that by 6, it will have cost them £11.45 each.

Not a bad price to pay for customer acquisition.

So, as far as I can make out, Govt has thrown in £150,000, 3,000 sales leads, and commercial access to our information. The rest is contingent on redirected money and some deal it has cooked-up with energy companies.

I'm about to write something very cynical. However, recognising I'm tired, I will refrain. This post is, however, leading to another, more directly concerned to the Energy Performance Certificate industry.

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