I am proud to run one of the first Council-owned energy companies. Why? Because we need a different kind of energy company in the market – one that can challenge the behaviours of the big six, for the benefit of the millions of people who are still paying too much simply to heat their home.
The energy retail market in the UK is fiercely competitive. At my last count, there were 73 suppliers in the energy market. With over 200 tariffs. That’s double what was available to households in 2015. Yes, there’s been some progress: October saw the highest number of customers switching away from the big six (163,274).
The fact the government is now stepping in proves that this increase in choice isn’t enough to prevent customers from being ripped off. And the majority haven’t switched for years. This is against a backdrop of fuel poverty at record levels.
It’s no surprise that the debate around the public ownership of utilities is back on the national agenda – and a key component of the Labour manifesto. Whatever your political persuasion, it’s clear that something needs to change.
So how can companies like Bristol Energy help change the market?
The traditional business model relied on switching inertia. The result? Millions of households being penalised for their loyalty. Bristol Energy is a national energy company that gives a fair deal to all our customers, but of course with a focus on benefiting the people of Bristol. And because our shareholder is Bristol City Council, every decision we make is for the benefit of our customers and the city.
Whether it’s volunteering to offer the Warm Home Discount when we were less than a year old; setting our pre-payment meter tariff as one of the lowest on the market; offering face-to-face customer service; or working with the Council and Bristol charities to tackle fuel poverty. We’re committed to making a change in this city. And if we can do all this as a new energy company, well so can the bigger players. And should others follow?
Of course, every Council should be thinking about saving its residents money on their energy bills and tackling fuel poverty. Bristol customers are already saving £260 a year on average when they switch to us from an average Big Six deal. That’s money back in people’s pockets, and back into the city.
We’re already ahead of where we said we’d be in our latest business plan, and customers across the country are switching to us. So, it works. If you’re a Council thinking of following our lead, please talk to us. It’s never easy – but we’ll tell you what works, what doesn’t, where the challenges are, and how to run an energy company that is truly for the people we serve. We’re building a movement. And that is something that we, and the city of Bristol, is very proud of.