Author Archives: mervynkohler

Complaining to energy suppliers


We’ve all heard people complaining about poor service from their energy companies. We’ve all read newspaper articles about inaccurate bills and unanswered queries. We’ve all seen the hefty fines handed to companies for failing customers.   In truth, the energy sector has not covered itself in glory handling consumer complaints.

But householders do not need to grin and bear it. Legal and other changes to consumer protection offer increased support to aggrieved customers. All the major energy companies are now answerable to an Ombudsman. But to take action, the Ombudsman needs to be satisfied that the consumer has followed due process. Continue reading

Redoubling our vigour to act on energy efficiency


A new report from ResPublica, launched today sponsored by Age UK, shines the spotlight on the hapless Green Deal which, most people would agree, has been a total flop.

The report, After the Green Deal’, explores a range of possibilities aiming to produce an attractive and compelling offer for the millions who could benefit from having a more energy efficient home. It also looks outside the UK for inspiration, at other countries pursuing the same policy objectives.


From its inception, the Green Deal struggled to capture the interest of older people who should have been one of its key target audiences. Back in 2013, research by Age UK found that 70 per cent of over-65s wouldn’t consider using the Green Deal, with the requirement to take out debt scaring off the majority.

Yet the problem of cold, leaky homes is huge for at least a million older people, including many of those who could benefit from home improvements. We know that older households tend to be over-represented in housing with poorer energy efficiency ratings – older couples in particular spend significantly more on their energy bills than younger groups, and cold homes pose a particular risk to their health. Continue reading

Smart energy for all

Just over a month ago, Smart Energy GB published a consultation paper as part of its work to support the roll-out of smart meters in an inclusive and engaging manner.

In ‘Smart energy for all’, Smart Energy GB set out what it has learned from research about the potential difficulties which might challenge the programme amongst some sections of the population, and what it does not know and where it would welcome more evidence.

The consultation paper is thorough and comprehensive. The point is that here we have, within the next five years, the opportunity to really change the way the British public thinks about and uses energy, and we ought to get it right from the start.

What about older people 

Older households make up a third of the national total. We know that older households see advantages in understanding more about their energy use, so that they can use it with confidence to keep adequately warm, without worrying about unwelcome and unexpected bills.

The end of estimated bills, and the ending of meter readers’ visits, will be applauded.   But can the simple process of installing a new meter and a domestic meter display unit help older people to take maximum advantage from the new technology?   Continue reading

Fuel poverty – the next steps?


The Coalition Government devolved the delivery of fuel poverty policy to the energy supply industry by introducing the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to the household names in the energy supply business. Via their licence to supply, they are obligated to reduce domestic carbon emissions (ie help households to use less energy) by the most cost-effective method.

Scaling back of the Energy Company Obligation 

This turned out to be a programme which added about 5% to gas bills and about 11% to electricity bills  yielding some £1bn per year for remedial fuel poverty work. As global energy prices rose, these ‘extras’ on gas and electricity bills came into the firing line, and the Government scaled back ECO in 2013. With no tax-funded programme in play, and what is effectively a cap on what it obliges energy companies to do, the outlook for those in fuel poverty is bleak.  Continue reading