coronavirus

The latest on how utilities have reacted to the pandemic and how companies are adapting to a new normal post-lockdown

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Ofgem’s chief executive Jonathan Brearley has set out his expectation that the energy sector will start to return to business as usual from next month. The regulator has written to suppliers, networks and the electricity system operator informing them that normal regulatory rules will apply from 1 July. Brearley said that while Covid-19 guidance must still be adhered to, now was the time for a “steady recovery” to begin.
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Electricity switching in Great Britain took a further dip last month as the coronavirus pandemic continued to affect consumer behaviour. The figures from ElectraLink’s Energy Market Data Hub show switches between energy suppliers in May decreased both year-on-year and month-on-month.
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To mark Global Wind Day, Orsted’s head of region for the UK, Duncan Clark, writes for Utility Week about how the post-pandemic economic recovery offers an opportunity for the offshore wind sector to refocus and potentially accelerate progress towards a more sustainable, low-carbon future.
Opinion
Many energy efficiency upgrades can already be carried out safely within Covid-19 guidelines, according to a new report from the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group, which says home insulation projects could create 42,500 full time jobs over the next two years. The report was issued on the same day as the OECD warned the UK will suffer a bigger economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic than any other advanced nation.
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Ofgem’s chief executive returns to Utility Week’s #AskUsAnything show to answer questions from readers, joined by interim executive director of systems and networks, Cathryn Scott and director, future retail, Philippa Pickford. Listen back to the on-demand recording here.
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Latest in coronavirus

Yu Group chief executive Bobby Kalar has said he is not worried at the prospect of reduced energy consumption from business consumers, adding that the company is focusing on growth to mitigate this. Kalar was speaking to Utility Week following the publication of his company’s financial results which revealed the impact Covid has had on the business.
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EDF has trialed a new self-service app to support the testing of its workforce for Covid-19, ensuring critical work can continue at its nuclear sites during outages. The company says the testing has enabled it to continue with its statutory outage programme without interruption and without any disruption to service.
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Energy and telecoms customers became more tolerant of poor service from their provider during the first months of the pandemic, likely leading to a reduction in complaints, new research has found.
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A webinar exploring how the pandemic has forced most companies across sectors to adopt different ways of working in order to maintain their services and operations.
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A charity has revealed the extent of the impact the pandemic has had on people with disabilities, with some forgoing meals in order to save energy. Scope, a disability equality charity, conducted an Opinium survey of more than 1,000 disabled people and has released the results in a report titled Covid-19, energy suppliers and their disabled customers.
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Northumbrian Water has become the first water company in the sector to join a mass coronavirus testing programme. Frontline and customer facing staff will be offered one or two voluntary tests weekly to identify asymptomatic cases.
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Octopus Energy has been crowned as the most reliable energy supplier during last year’s lockdowns, following a mass survey by Uswitch. The comparison and switching service polled 17,000 customers as part of its 16th annual energy awards. It asked which energy retailers gave them the best support during lockdown and other localised restrictions.
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Covid-19 has seen demand at the Fuel Bank Foundation’s centres increase by almost a quarter on average, the charity has revealed. On average, the number of people seeking help has risen 23 per cent across its more than 140 centres. Some centres have seen demand increase by more than 300 per cent.
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With Ofgem anticipating customers owing suppliers around £550 million of debt this year due to Covid, energy retailers must act quickly to ensure they remain on top of their finances or risk ruin. Rachel Littlewood, head of financial optimisation at BFY Group, reveals steps companies can take to ensure they manage their finances effectively through the crisis.
Opinion
Non-domestic water retailers will not face market performance charge penalties until the end of the financial year due to lockdown conditions, however operator charges will remain and temporary vacancy flags will not be reinstated.
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The UK government’s approach to continuing the smart meter rollout under lockdown has been challenged in Scotland and by a trade union. While non-essential installations are continuing in England, they have been suspended north of the border, sparking fears over the knock-on effect on the already pressurised timeline for the UK-wide rollout. Meanwhile, the GMB has demanded the government changes guidance so meter readers are not forced to go to work.
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