A new look to the National Right to Fuel Campaign
The UK’s energy industry is due to undergo some transformative changes over the coming decade. Such include, the Electricity Market Reform, Green Deal and launch of a Green Investment Bank, among others. These will lead to dramatic change in our relationship with both generating and consuming energy. Of particular importance to these changes are those that are living in fuel poverty. Recent announcements indicate that the number of people living in fuel poverty in the UK is increasing, and is expected to increase further off the back of recent energy price rises. The National Right to Fuel Campaign is building momentum in addressing these political and social challenges head on.
Over the coming decade, around 54 million smart meters for gas and electricity will be installed into every home and business in the UK. In doing so, energy companies will have access to more accurate consumer energy usage information which will result in an end to estimated billing and development of more innovative tariff structures that respond to and reflect our diversifying energy mix. But, what impact will this have on the fuel poor?
Late last month (July, 2011) we, the National Right to Fuel Campaign (NRFC), held an engaging focus group that discussed a topic of current relevance: the rollout of smart meters. The focus group was held to bring together leading stakeholders from across the energy industry to discuss the potential impact(s) upon the fuel poor. With representatives from consumer groups, industry associations and energy companies, the focus group proved a lively affair.
Throughout the afternoon it became clear that the precise impact of smart meter rollout upon those living in fuel poverty was unclear. However, there was a consensus that in light of rising energy bills, fuel poverty remains an increasingly important issue to address. Of particular importance were an identification of five topics:
- Details of the Code of Practice and implications for the transparency of energy companies
- How might costs (and cost savings) be passed onto consumers using innovative tariff structures
- The importance of consumer engagement in functionality of smart meters, in particular that the DECC engages more with consumers by producing an impact assessment.
- The problems caused by the Governments failure to grant trusted community actors – property developers, Local Authorities, social housing associations etc – a clear role in managing the smart meter rollout and the vital importance that all government departments, not just the DECC, must fully engage in the programme for it to prove a success.
- Smart jobs of jobs for ‘cowboys’
The rollout of smart meters and development of a smart grid have the potential to change our relationship with energy at an individual and industry level. However, there remain concerns that with increasing numbers of people falling into fuel poverty, the implementation of this and other energy policies, could lead to a widening of the energy gap. Over the remainder of this summer, NRFC will be working with industry stakeholders to build a body of ‘thinkpieces’ on smart meters around the identified topics above, leading to an autumn forum where we will present our findings. Addressing fuel poverty is vital and the NRFC intends to cement its place as a leading independent body of thought and action.