Energy Costs ? Price Cap News And Other Related Issues

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
Several doing the rounds this morning ... Morning Star ... or should that be Mourning Star ? ... city-bills

Hinkley Point blunders will mean higher electricity bills

BRITAIN’S poorest households face higher energy bills to pay for the government’s bungled handling of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, MPs warned yesterday.

The public accounts committee voiced concerns that consumers are “locked into” the expensive 35-year deal.

The MPs said no-one was protecting the interests of energy consumers over the deal and questioned why the government has not revised the terms since the project was commissioned in 2013.

The original cost of £6 billion has now soared to £30bn, according to a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) forecast cited in the committee’s report.

Its operator, French energy giant EDF, has been given a guaranteed price — above current prices — for the electricity it produces, the MPs noted.

The report said the average annual household electricity bill would rise by £10 to £15 to support the new power station up to 2030, which could disproportionately affect the poorest households.

A BEIS spokesman said it had ensured consumers would not pay anything until the station generates power in 2025.

But Greenpeace UK head of energy Hannah Martin argued: “Hinkley looked like a dodgy deal over a year ago, but now that offshore wind is so much cheaper than new nuclear, this project makes absolutely no financial sense.”

There you go folks ... Greenpeace have said it all !

Not only that , the anticipated increase in skilled workers needed when operations begin has fallen dramatically ... thus exposing the Government's argument for boosting the local economy.

Question ... any vested interests in all this ?

Seems to be a lot more to this one than has already been published ?

No doubt , The Eye have this one in their sights ???

Headline from the Bristol Post to add a little seasoning to the above :

Any attempt to get better value for money would have killed £30bn Hinkley Point deal

Every household will have to pay up to £15 a year for the next 13 years to fund new nuclear power plant

Make of this what you will ... I wonder what our children / grandchildren will make of it ?
The call for price caps on energy costs grows :

Price cap on energy bills urgently needed, says committee.

The government's planned cap on energy bills should be introduced urgently, to stop customers from being overcharged, a report from MPs says.

Competition was not working and had failed to deliver fair prices for consumers, a select committee said.

The committee said it was "underwhelmed by the feeble steps" taken by energy companies to avoid government action.

The cap should be temporary and fixed at an "absolute" level, rather than set relative to other tariffs.

Legislation should be passed before the summer recess, the report suggested, which should allow the cap to be in place before the end of the year.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has been examining the government's draft bill to cap energy tariffs, following a commitment made last year by Theresa May.

"The Big Six energy companies might whine and wail about the introduction of a price cap," said Rachel Reeves, the committee's chairwoman.

"But they've been overcharging their customers on default and standard variable tariffs for years and their recent feeble efforts to move consumers off these tariffs has only served to highlight the need for this intervention."

The report said the larger energy companies had "brought this policy intervention upon themselves by raising their prices in 2017 and by failing to take effective action against the overcharging of their customers".

The regulator Ofgem was also criticised for being "too slow and reluctant" to use its powers to protect the interests of customers.

'Excessive prices'

The MPs' report said 12 million customers "stuck on poor-value" standard variable and default tariffs were paying up to £300 a year more their energy than other people.

Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs) are the most expensive product in the energy market, and customers have been urged to look for cheaper fixed-price deals.

But the report said consumers should not be penalised if they did not shop around.

Five million of the UK's most vulnerable households, many of whom pay using pre-payment meters, already have their energy bills capped. But with the cost of producing energy expected to rise in the Spring those households were recently told they should expect a rise in their energy bills.

An Ofgem spokesperson said it was pressing ahead with plans to protect energy consumers in expectation of the new legislation.

The regulator said "innovative solutions" such as its scheme to trial "collective switching" which would allow consumers to group together to gain better deals, would help households reduce their energy bills Ofgem said.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, said the report confirmed that " the energy market isn't working for customers stuck on rip-off tariffs".

He said that the government's plan to introduce a price cap would protect consumers from high energy bills.

Competition concerns

MPs backed the government's plan for the cap on standard variable tariffs to be set at an "absolute" or fixed level, rather than be "relative" or set at a maximum difference to other fixed tariffs available to customers.

They said a relative cap might create a perverse incentive for suppliers to increase their lowest prices to maintain overall profits.

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at the price comparison and switching service uSwitch said any price cap might "do more harm than good" if it undermined competition between energy companies.

"A widespread price cap could lull energy customers into a false sense of security if they think they are protected by it," he said.

Energy UK, a body representing the industry said more customers were already switching suppliers to get better deals and that the cap could hamper competition.

"It's also important that the cap accurately reflects suppliers' costs, most of which are out of their direct control," said Energy UK's chief executive Lawrence Slade.

What else would any reader expect when OUR assets have been sold to the private sector ?

BILLIONS of £s paid out from the profits to shareholders instead of being reinvested in lowering prices and the infra structure.

Short term gain / long term pain.

Return ALL to public ownership !!!
Oh dear , the free market economy at it's finest ? ... -exclusive

Big six energy companies routinely overcharging customers – exclusive.

Analysis for the Guardian shows most companies charging customers the same after switching them to ‘cheaper’ tariffs.

The UK’s big six energy companies have been accused of dirty tricks after analysis for the Guardian revealed that they are routinely charging customers almost exactly the same amount after switching them off controversial default tariffs.

In the face of Theresa May’s plans to impose a price cap on standard variable tariffs (SVTs), which more than half of energy customers are on despite their steep prices, companies such as British Gas, E.ON and SSE have pledged to phase out such tariffs and shift billpayers onto better value fixed deals.

The chief of energy regulator Ofgem has welcomed such moves as a sign of progress in the energy market.

But data compiled for the Guardian shows that in the case of market leader British Gas, the most expensive fixed deal – that many customers are being moved on to – is identical to its SVT, at £1,099.84.

It is understood that when customers contact their supplier to change their tariff, most are moved to the most expensive fix that the company offers. Each company’s cheapest fixed deals are often only available through comparison sites.

E.ON charged £1093.35 for both its SVT and most costly fix, while the gap for ScottishPower was just £8.49 and npower’s was £37, the figures obtained by challenger supplier Octopus show. SSE was slightly better, with a £54.73 gap, and EDF’s gap was £82.83.

The data suggests the companies are engaged in what is largely a rebadging process rather than a genuine effort to cut customers’ bills by switching them to more competitive products.

John Penrose, the Tory MP who pressured Theresa May to confirm a cap last October, said: “The big six need to do more than just a cosmetic exercise. No one should be fooled if they’re just moving customers from one rip-off tariff to another, with a different label on the tin.

“The only way we’ll put a stop to these dirty tricks is with an energy price cap, so I’m delighted the government is about to bring one in.”

British Gas on Thursday cited the price cap as one reason it is shedding 4,000 jobs, although its consumer energy arm’s profits only dropped 1% despite losing 750,000 customers to more competitively priced rivals.

More than half of British Gas customers are on SVTs, with similar shares for E.ON, EDF and npower. SSE has the highest proportion, and Scottish Power the lowest.

The data compiled by Octopus on big six pricing tactics is a snapshot taken of tariffs offered on 18 February in the London region. It excludes fixed tariffs with extras, such as boiler cover.

While the gap is small or non-existent in most cases between the SVT and the most expensive fixed tariff, the big six do offer cheaper fixes to lure in new customers. For example, British Gas’s cheapest fix is £200 below its SVT.

Although the figures are taken on a single day, an examination of the companies’ tariffs over a 90-day period ending on 18 February showed the pricing behaviour is not an anomaly.

Greg Jackson, the founder and chief executive of Octopus, calling the pricing cynical and said: “Time and time again we see the big six ducking and diving to find new ways of covertly ripping off their loyal customers. This latest is a cynical move as now even the experts – press, regulators and politicians – won’t be able to hold them to account, and it shows why the energy price cap is so vital.”
Sign up to the Green Light email to get the planet's most important stories
Read more

British Gas declined to comment but SSE said: “We work hard to keep prices down and our fixed deals give customers the security of knowing their prices are locked in for a set period of time.”

E.ON said it was still working out the detail of ending SVTs but: “Our new model of offering customers a one-year tariff as the default option … [will] be cheaper than their current standard variable product.”

Npower said its tariff was cheaper and “also protects customers from any price increase for the next three years”. It added: “It is also worth noting that our cheapest generally available tariff is now £92 less than our SVT product.”

EDF said: “We don’t agree that moving customers on to a deal which is almost identical to their existing standard tariff is in their best interests and we don’t do it.”

Asked what percentage of customers were moved off an SVT on to the company’s most expensive fix, none of the big six responded.

The original article contains some graphs which do not crossover well.

Perhaps a charge over " False advertising " is in order ?

Time to return our former assets before many are priced out of the market ?

The argument that private enterprise increases competition and reduces prices is a fallacy.

More a case of the lucky few profiting from the many ???
Some good news for once ... comes on a day many will be facing the choice of to eat or to heat :

Move to cap 'rip off' energy bills.

Legislation to crack down on expensive energy tariffs is being introduced to Parliament on Monday.

The prime minister said it would protect 11 million people paying "rip-off" energy tariffs.

The law will allow energy regulator Ofgem to limit what companies can charge customers for their standard variable tariffs.

Energy UK, representing energy suppliers, said it was vital the cap did not stifle competition.

The government says the Domestic Gas and Electricity Bill will limit the cost of firm's standard default tariffs until 2020. Following that, the cap may be extended on an annual basis until 2023.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "It's often older people or those on low incomes who are stuck on rip-off energy tariffs, so today we are introducing legislation to force energy companies to change their ways."

The move is an admission that encouraging consumers to regularly switch providers to pay less has not been as successful as hoped.

About a third of households are charged a variable price for their energy at a default rate set by their energy company, because they have not chosen to shop around for a cheaper fixed-price deal.

The Department for Business Energy and the Industrial Sector said that the energy market wasn't working and that domestic customers of the "Big Six" energy companies were paying on average £1.4bn a year more than they would in a truly competitive market.

"We're going to give powers to Ofgem to make this energy market work for everybody by winter 2018, to set a maximum absolute cap [to be] paid by customers on standard variable and default tariffs, the tariffs that the majority of households are on and sometimes don't even know it," Claire Perry, energy and clean growth minister, told BBC Radio 4.

The Business Department says the average annual savings between standard tariffs and fixed rate deals could be up to £300.

The government intends the cap to be in place in time for next winter.

It is separate from Ofgem's safeguard tariff, which is already helping some five million vulnerable customers pay lower prices.

Energy UK said it was important that the price cap reflected costs - most of which were outside their control, such as distribution costs and the wholesale cost of energy.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of industry body Energy UK, said energy providers were concerned a cap would damage investment and competition.

"The risk of unintended consequences around caps is serious. What we have to do is, working with Ofgem and the government, is make sure the cap has sufficient headroom to allow competition to continue," he told Radio 4.

One of the largest energy providers, British Gas, has made moves to abolish standard variable tariffs in expectation of the cap. Ms Perry said the legislation would still apply to companies that "try to game the cap" by altering labels.

Too late for this year .... 30,000+ " Winter " deaths ... it will come too late for those unfortunates.

Still , what do lives matter when there is money to be made by a privileged few ?
Water ... often overlooked ... an article from this morning's Independent : ... 35531.html

Michael Gove launches searing attack on water company bosses over tax avoidance and executive pay.

The Environment Secretary said the firms have 'avoided paying taxes' and 'rewarded the already well-off.'

Michael Gove has launched a searing attack on an audience of water company bosses – accusing their firms of avoiding billions of pounds in tax, overpaying executives and failing to properly invest in infrastructure.

The Environment Secretary said some companies had been funnelling almost all their profits to shareholders, while having “hidden behind complex financial structures” in off-shore tax havens to avoid the Inland Revenue.

In an unexpected move for a Conservative Cabinet minister, he named and shamed the chief executives of particular companies, whose representatives would have been attending the conference he was speaking at.

Mr Gove has already warned water firms he will not refrain from strengthening their industry’s regulator if they refuse to give consumers a better deal, with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour promising full renationalisation if it wins power.

In a speech to the Water UK City Conference on Thursday Mr Gove said: “Far too often, there is evidence that water companies – your water companies – have not been acting sufficiently in the public interest.

“Some companies have been playing the system for the benefit of wealthy managers and owners, at the expense of consumers and the environment.”

He went on: “They have shielded themselves from scrutiny, hidden behind complex financial structures, avoided paying taxes, have rewarded the already well-off, kept charges higher than they needed to be and allowed leaks, pollution and other failures to persist for far too long.”

While there had been some acknowledgement that change had to come from the industry, he said companies are guilty of “prevarication and procrastination, ducking and diving and dragging of feet”.

He set out how water companies had paid out £18.1bn to shareholders between 2007 and 2016, a figure almost equal to the total profit over the same period.

Mr Gove went on: “And who made those decisions? Well, of course, it’s the people in this room – chief executives and board members of the privatised water companies.

“And you must realise that in the public eye you are very handsomely remunerated.”

He singled out the chief executive of United Utilities, who he said was paid £2.8m per year, Severn Trent’s chief executive, £2.42m per year, and the chief executives at Anglian and Yorkshire who he said are paid £1.2m a year, while the boss of Thames Water receives £960,000 a year.

Mr Gove then turned his fire on the companies’ tax arrangements, saying some are not contributing enough to Treasury coffers, and others are “very much not”.

He said: “Last year Anglian, Southern and Thames paid no corporation tax. Indeed Thames has paid no corporation tax for a decade.

“Ten years of shareholders getting millions, the chief executive getting hundreds of thousands, and the public purse getting nothing.

“And water companies have been able to minimise their tax obligations, even as many have failed to minimise leaks and pollution, because some of their best brains appear to be as intent on financial engineering just as much as real engineering.”

He accused four water companies – Thames, Southern, Anglian and Yorkshire – of making “particularly keen use of sophisticated financial engineering”.

The Cabinet minister said the companies had “set up multi-layered corporate structures of dizzying complexity” involving multiple subsidiaries with some based in offshore tax havens.

Mr Gove went on: “The use of these offshore entities makes company affairs more opaque and their financial activities less transparent, and customers have an absolute right to question their use.

“As well as Thames, Southern and Yorkshire – have also set up offshore financial structures in the Cayman Islands.”

He accepted that water companies had initially set up the structures to enable smoother access to global bond markets, but then pointed out that the rules related to the issue had now changed, before accusing the companies of maintaining the structures to “avoid proper scrutiny”.

In a dissection of the industry’s financial affairs, he then turned to how they had structured debt to maximise their gains.

He explained that regulator Ofwat asks customers to pay water companies an amount that allows firms to maintain a prudent balance sheet divided on a 60:40 basis between debt and equity.

The 40 per cent is designed explicitly as a ‘buffer zone’, he said, that protects companies from financial shocks and to ensure they have enough money to invest.

But Mr Gove told his audience: “The banks and funds which own these companies have increased their debt levels to nearly 80 per cent – or 83 per cent, in the case of Thames.

“And because the debt levels are higher than those assumed by Ofwat – and the repayments are cheaper than they would be on equity returns, and are paid out before tax to boot – the companies have made supernormal gains.”

Mr Gove underlined the need for change because of growing pressure for renationalisation, something he admitted now has “significant and growing public support”.

Responding to the issues raised by Mr Gove at the conference on Thursday, Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said the the sector is already acting.

Of the offshore financial arrangements, he said: “All the relevant companies, supported by Water UK, are looking at their arrangements – and three of them – Yorkshire Water, Thames Water and Anglian Water – have publicly pledged to remove them from their structures as soon as they can.

“On leverage, not all companies are highly-geared – but a number of those which are, have started to change that, and Yorkshire Water for one has said it is going further with an aim to reduce gearing to 70 per cent by 2020.

He added that on dividends and executive pay, ”I suspect at the very least there is an important job to be done by all concerned to explain fairly and more clearly the approaches adopted by water companies.”

At its annual conference in 2017, Labour vowed to renationalise railways, water, energy and Royal Mail.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “Building an economy for the many also means bringing ownership and control of the utilities and key services into the hands of people who use and work in them. Rail, water, energy, Royal Mail – we’re taking them back.”

Rave on as much as you like , Michael.

It was your lot that sold off OUR assets to the private sector.

How they structure their busoiness and tax affairs is nothing new !

Only sane part is John McDonnell's comment in the last paragraph !!!
A little bit of political mud slinging does not go amiss here : ... say-labour

Tories have cost households £1,000 in energy bills, says Labour

Labour says Conservative government should have intervened earlier.

Labour has accused the Conservatives of costing British households nearly £1,000 in extra energy costs over the past seven years by failing to stop electricity and gas firms raising prices.

While the government is now imposing an energy price cap, the opposition attacked what it said was a record of inaction by successive Tory governments.

The government defended its record, saying a freeze on prices as energy companies faced growing costs in recent years would have damaged investment and businesses.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow business secretary, said: “The government has been promising action on energy bills since 2010 yet energy costs are still spiralling.”

In 2010, a household with typical energy consumption paid £1,038 for an annual dual fuel bill. In 2017 it was £1,116, but in some years it has been more than £1,200.

Adding up the annual amount consumers have paid above the 2010 level, the total cost to an average household is £957, figures compiled by the House of Commons library show.

Labour said this extra cost could have been avoided if the Conservatives had intervened earlier to stop suppliers raising prices.

The result was big six profits had continued to thrive, leaving around 2.5m households in fuel poverty, the party said. Labour’s proposed price cap would keep typical bills below £1,000, lower than the £1,050 that some analysts expect the government’s price cap to come in at.

“The next Labour government will radically reform our broken energy market, creating publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers,” Long-Bailey said.

The government responded by pointing out that Ofgem had referred the energy market to the competition watchdog four years ago, and had since taken steps to put in place a price cap.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Energy prices have gone up and down since 2010, driven by external factors including wholesale and network costs, and policies that have led to investment in networks, energy efficiency and low-carbon generation.

“Freezing energy prices would have meant a lack of important investment in infrastructure and would have damaged businesses when market-driven costs went up.”

The analysis assumed that energy use has remained constant when in reality it has been falling over the past seven years due to more efficient products. The real amount consumers have paid due to tariff increases is therefore likely to be lower than £957.

Ministers took the decision to move ahead with a cap last autumn after a series of price rises by the big six across 2017. The companies blamed the increases on a variety of reasons including rising wholesale prices and government policy costs.

Analysts have warned that another round of price rises is imminent. E.ON was criticised last week for announcing a backdoor way of increasing energy bills for a million customers.

The legislation underpinning the government’s price cap passed its second reading in the Houses of Commons on Tuesday, and a committee of MPs will take evidence on the draft law from experts next week.

If the cap comes into force by the year’s end, as hoped, it will not stop prices going up periodically, but will put a ceiling on the amount suppliers can charge consumers.

No doubt , the shareholders in the energy companies will remain " Cautious " as to investing more in their shares.

However , the returns are still " Good " and dividend growth continues ... at the expense of the UK tax payers !!!