Energy retail

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Energy companies paid out almost £49 million in penalties and redress in 2019/20, more than the previous three years combined, Ofgem’s Enforcement Decision Panel (EDP) has revealed.
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There is widespread recognition across utilities of the need for a single shared priority services register. So what is standing in the way? Adam John asks the experts.
Analysis
Covid-19 had a “significant effect” on smart meter installations in 2020, data from Electralink has found. In total, just under two million were installed across the 12 months, which is down 27 per cent on 2019 and the lowest number since 2016.
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Thousands of GMB members at British Gas have walked out as part of a five-day strike over changes to workers’ pay and conditions. In June last year the company said it would be undertaking a major restructure in which 5,000 jobs, the majority of which are managerial roles, would be cut.
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Smart meter installations will still be allowed to continue despite the new national lockdown, the government has confirmed. Under previous restrictions, suppliers were only allowed to install the devices under exceptional circumstances, such as to ensure customers remained on supply.
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Green energy retailer Ecotricity has agreed a deal which will enable the production and sale of geothermal electricity in what it claims is a UK first. The company’s partnership with Geothermal Engineering will see a minimum 3MW of base-load electricity produced by generating steam more than three miles beneath the United Downs site in Cornwall, producing enough electricity to power 10,000 homes every year.
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Latest in Energy retail

Flexitricity has partnered with ev.energy with the aim of forming the first aggregated balancing mechanism unit comprised of domestic electric vehicles (EVs). The aggregator will use its automated trading software to sell flexibility in the balancing mechanism from the roughly 10,000 EVs connected to ev.energy’s smart charging platform.
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Octopus Energy has launched a new time-of-use tariff that is only available to people living nearby to two wind turbines bought by the company and enables them to receive cheaper electricity when it is windy. The 500kW turbines, located at Caerphilly in South Wales and Market Weighton in Yorkshire, are the first to be acquired by the supplier and each produce enough power annually to meet the needs of around 400 homes.
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In our latest review of sector coverage across the national newspapers, EDF is said to be drawing up plans for a stock market flotation of EV charging infrastructure specialist, Pod Point. Meanwhile, scientists have hit back at claims carbon capture represents a risky approach to decarbonisation and the government is expected to crack down on oil and gas companies’ plans to cut emissions.
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Centrica has announced that its group chief financial officer Johnathon Ford is to step down for personal reasons. He will be replaced with immediate effect by a veteran of the company. In other appointments news, a former Centrica director has joined Cadent to work on its decarbonisation strategy. .
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Several industry bodies have raised concerns about a lack of protections for domestic demand side response (DSR) consumers. A new report by Energy UK, Citizens Advice and the Association For Decentralised Energy has highlighted a number of potential consumer risks with DSR services, including lack of access to redress and the potential for confusion caused by multiple parties interacting with one customer.
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A Labour MP has asked the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to investigate after claiming recent strike action left Centrica customers with their HomeCare insurance not being honoured. It comes as the British Gas owner issued a trading statement, in which it assessed the impact of the pandemic on its business.
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Despite a significant decrease during the first lockdown Covid-19 appears to have had a minimal effect on electricity switching overall in 2020, figures from Electralink show. There were 6.2 million changes of supplier events in 2020 – just 2.3 per cent down from a record 6.3 million the year before. The data also shows that the former big six brands lost more than 1.3 million customers during the year, with the large challengers only gaining market share due to acquisitions and the supplier of last resort process.
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Plans have been unveiled by the government to increase the eligibility criteria for debt relief orders (DROs) by 50 per cent to £30,000 as concerns about the financial impact of the pandemic continue to grow.  Delivered in partnership with the professional debt advice sector, DROs protect vulnerable people from creditor action and after 12 months all debt within the order is written off.
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Ovo Group has outlined its progress on hitting its 2030 target of net zero emissions as part of its ambitious Plan Zero commitment. Utility Week explores what has been achieved so far.
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The GMB union has accused Centrica of “ignoring” a five-day strike by its members last week as it unveiled a further walkout at the end of this month.
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Ofgem has proposed delaying an increase in the amount the Data Communications Company will be penalised by if it fails to hit performance targets. The regulator instead wants to see the different incentives put to trial before being properly implemented.
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In our latest review of sector coverage across the national newspapers, the reshuffle at BEIS is analysed, there is no sign of breakthrough in Centrica’s dispute over pay and conditions and more than 100 MPs from across different parties are supporting a parliamentary bid to stop water companies discharging untreated sewage into rivers.
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