The Labour future / The Tory threat. The Choice: Energy

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1 The Labour future / The Tory threat The Choice: Energy

2 Contents INTRODUCTION... 3 THE TORY FAILURE... 4 David Cameron s broken promise on tariffs... 4 David Cameron s broken promise on green levies... 5 More families in fuel poverty... 6 Energy efficiency failure... 6 Lack of competition... 7 Energy companies getting away with poor service and high prices... 8 THE TORY THREAT... 9 Spiralling profits on the back of soaring energy bills... 9 THE LABOUR FUTURE

3 INTRODUCTION At next year s election, the British people face a choice on energy. A choice between the Tories, who have done nothing to stop soaring energy bills or tackle the broken energy market, and Labour, who will act to create a fairer energy market that works in the interests of consumers, and freeze energy bills until The energy market is broken, and ordinary consumers are suffering as a result. Since David Cameron became Prime Minister, the average household dual fuel energy bill has risen by nearly 300 whilst a typical small business has seen their energy bills rise by more than 13,000. These soaring energy bills are a key factor in the cost- of- living crisis created by the Tory- led Government. They are also a symptom of a poorly functioning energy market. Lack of competition in the retail market has resulted in customers being overcharged, and lack of transparency in the wholesale market has resulted in a growing gap between retail prices and wholesale costs. Instead of standing up for consumers and tackling rip- off energy bills, David Cameron and the Tories have stood up for the privileged few backing the Big Six energy companies rather than ordinary families. On this Prime Minister s watch, energy bills in Britain have risen twice as fast as inflation, four times faster than wages and faster than in almost any other country in the developed world. Households and businesses cannot afford another five years of this. Labour recognises that the broken energy market and soaring bills are contributing to the cost- of- living crisis for families. A Labour government will act to create a fairer energy market that works in the interests of consumers. We will break up the Big Six energy companies and force them to be more transparent about how they buy and sell their energy, introduce a simple new tariff structure so people can compare prices, and create a tough new energy watchdog with new powers to police the market. And, to protect consumers from unfair price hikes while we carry out these reforms, we will freeze energy bills for 20 months, saving the average household 120. Next May, on energy, the British people will decide between the Tory threat and the Labour future: that s the choice. 3

4 THE TORY FAILURE Under David Cameron and the Tories, energy bills have soared by almost 300 a year, 1 while the profits of the Big Six energy companies have spiralled. 2 Rising bills are a symptom of a broken market that has allowed consumers to be overcharged. But David Cameron has repeatedly failed to stand up to the Big Six energy companies and demand a better deal for consumers. Even when he has personally promised to take action, for example on rolling back green levies or forcing companies to put customers on the cheapest tariffs, David Cameron has repeatedly broken his word. Despite his promises, bills are still rising. David Cameron s broken promise on tariffs At Prime Minister s Questions on 17 October 2012, David Cameron announced that he would be legislating to require energy companies to put all their customers on the lowest tariff. We have encouraged people to switch, which is one of the best ways to get energy bills down. I can announce, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome, that we will be legislating so that energy companies have to give the lowest tariff to their customers something that Labour did not do in 13 years, even though the Leader of the Labour party could have done it because he had the job. David Cameron, Hansard, 17 October 2012, column 316 He has since repeated this promise twelve times. 3 However, the Government s own Energy Act only gives the Secretary of State the power to require a supplier to change a customer s tariff when a customer is on a closed tariff. As a result, only people who are on dead tariffs which are more expensive than the standard evergreen tariff will actually be moved to a cheaper tariff. Based on figures provided by the big energy companies this is estimated to affect less than ten per cent of people. 4 1 According to analysis from the House of Commons library, based on figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, household energy bills rose by 21% in real terms between 2010 and 2013, meaning household energy bills were 221 a year higher in 2013 compared to Some suppliers also implemented further price rises which came into force in December 2013 and 2014, meaning this is likely to be an underestimate of the total increase in household energy bills since Energy companies' profits rocket 1,100% as watchdog demands price cuts for customers, Mirror, 30 July 2014, 3 Hansard, 4 September 2013, col 312 Hansard, 20 March 2013, col 920 Hansard, 13 March 2013, col 305 Hansard, 27 February 2013, col 307 Hansard, 13 February 2013, col 851 Hansard, 13 February 2013, col 857 Hansard, 16 January 2013, col 687 Hansard, 16 January 2013, col 871 Hansard, 5 December 2013, col 864 Hansard, 21 November 2013, col 573 Hansard, 24 October 2013, col 915 Hansard, 24 October 2013, col In July 2013, Caroline Flint wrote to all of the Big Six energy companies to ask them how many customers they had on closed or dead tariffs. The companies responded that an estimated 2.5 million customers were on closed or dead tariffs. Based on DECC estimates there are over 27 million households with gas or electricity accounts, which suggests that over 90 per cent of customers will not be affected by the policy. 4

5 David Cameron s broken promise on green levies In December 2013 the Government announced changes to green levies on energy bills 5. David Cameron repeatedly claimed that this would save all consumers 50 from their energy bills. It is on this side of the House that we have delivered the 50 off bills by rolling back the cost of the green levies. David Cameron, Hansard, 12 February 2014, column 846 We have also cut energy bills by 50 by rolling back the cost of some of the green measures. David Cameron, Hansard, 22 January 2014, column 300 However, four of the Big Six energy companies (npower, Scottish Power, E.ON and EdF) refused to pass on the full 50 reduction to customers on fixed price deals. 6 In January 2014, the Government said that if the energy companies failed to pass on the savings of the changes to green levies this would not be acceptable. Mr Barker told the BBC s You and Yours programme he was unaware that some suppliers were not passing on the reduction and that this would not be acceptable. Telegraph, 29 January 2014, giants- failure- to- pass- on- 50- bill- cut- not- acceptable- Greg- Barker- says.html Despite this, the Government has taken no action to force energy companies to pass on these savings to customers on fixed price deals, with an estimated 3.8 million households to miss out on David Cameron s promised 50 saving as a result. 7 Furthermore, the Government s own figures show that the energy companies should be cutting their prices even further after the Big Six saved more money than first thought from the reductions in green levies. In their response to the Consultation on the future of the Energy Company Obligation, the Government admitted that the changes to the scheme were likely to mean that the energy companies would make more money. ECO companies are likely now to be in a position to make greater savings than they had originally projected in December The Future of the Energy Company Obligation Government response to the 5 March 2014 consultation, 22 July 2014, e_energy_company_obligation_government_response.pdf However, rather than setting out concrete plans for how they were going to recoup these savings, the Government merely invited the energy companies to let them know. 5 DECC Press Release, 2 December 2013, 6 E.ON: EDF: Npower: Scottish Power: ver_rising_costs.asp 7 Based on figures from Press Releases cited above 5

6 Government would therefore expect the energy suppliers to ensure that consumers benefit from this further reduction in delivery costs in a concrete way, and invite them to set out publicly how they propose to do this. The Future of the Energy Company Obligation Government response to the 5 March 2014 consultation, 22 July 2014, e_energy_company_obligation_government_response.pdf More families in fuel poverty Under David Cameron, fuel poverty is getting worse. The latest Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report showed that the number of households in fuel poverty is projected to increase to 2.33 million in 2014 and the average fuel poverty gap the difference between people s bills and what they can afford has grown to 480 in Energy efficiency failure To ensure that bills are affordable in the long run, we need to reduce the amount of energy we use. But this Government s energy efficiency schemes have failed to deliver, and the number of energy efficiency measures installed in British homes has collapsed. Research by the Association for the Conservation of Energy shows that the number of energy efficiency measures installed fell by 60 per cent between 2013 and 2014, from 1.65 million major measures (cavity, loft and solid wall insulation) installed, to only 661,000 major measures installed. This collapse is projected to continue over the next year with only 507,000 measures likely to be installed a two thirds reduction. 9 Campaigners put the blame for the collapse squarely on the Government s policy decisions. The crash has been caused by the Government s decision to axe Warm Front, the only Exchequer funded energy efficiency programme for low income households, the abject failure of the Government s flagship Green Deal loan programme and the poorly designed energy efficiency levy scheme, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). This failure was compounded at the end of last year when the ECO was cut in a bid by the Government to reduce consumer energy bills. Energy Bill Revolution, Press Release, 4 July 2014 The Green Deal the Government s flagship energy efficiency policy has seen a disastrously low rate of take up. Former Energy Minister Greg Barker initially said he expected at least 10,000 people to have signed up to the Green Deal scheme by the end of Interviewer: How many people will have signed up for the Green Deal by the end of this year? Greg Barker: No, and you are not going to get that from me I am afraid. But Interviewer: Can we dare go into double digits; shall we say ten? Greg Barker: Oh yeah, I wouldn t be sleeping if we didn t have 10,000 at the end of the year. BBC Radio 4, You and Yours, 14 March Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report, 2014, 12 July 2014, 9 Home insulation installs 'have collapsed because of UK policies', Guardian, 4 July 2014, 6

7 He has since admitted that uptake has been much lower than this. We thought we d do about 10,000 in the first 12 months, but in the first eight months since the plans have been available, there are just under 2,000 in the system. So we re much lower than we expected. Greg Barker, Spectator, 18 December 2013, barker- interview- green- crap- was- a- curmudgeonly- thing- to- say/ And the latest figures show that just 1,587 households have had measures installed under the scheme meaning that fewer than one per cent of households who had a Green Deal assessment decided to take out a Green Deal finance package. 10 In June 2014, the Government announced a new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund to try and boost the low level of take- up. 11 But ministers were forced to close the fund when the money ran out at the end of July potentially leaving consumers who had already paid for an assessment, expecting it to be refunded under the cashback scheme, 100 out of pocket. 12 The Government s own figures also show that because of their changes to the Energy Company Obligation, 440,000 households will miss out on help to install energy efficiency measures and reduce their bills. 13 Lack of competition The retail market in the UK is dominated by the Big Six energy companies, all of whom were originally regional monopoly suppliers. Together these companies supply 95 per cent of the domestic market and own around 70 per cent of generating capacity. 14 The consumer group Which? found that 75 per cent of customers are on the most expensive tariffs offered by suppliers their standard tariff and are not getting the cheapest deal in the market. 15 They estimated that since 2011, families across the country have paid 3.6 billion a year more than they need to as a result. That means that households are on average paying 136 each year because the retail market is not working in the way that a competitive market should. 10 Domestic Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation in Great Britain, Monthly report, 22 July 2014, _in_gb_22nd_july.pdf 11 DECC Press Release, 1 May 2014, 12 Green deal cashback scheme is shut after surge of applications, Guardian, 25 July 2014, 13 The Future of the Energy Company Obligation: Assessment of Impacts, 5 March 2014, n_assessment_of_impacts.pdf 14 Ofgem State of the Market Assessment, 27 March 2014, 15 Which?, Analysis on Household Overpayment,

8 Energy companies getting away with poor service and high prices Consumers rightly expect to be treated fairly and be confident that energy companies will meet their obligations and provide good services. Where companies breach these obligations, the regulator Ofgem has the power to impose financial penalties on suppliers. However, despite repeated fines, the energy companies are continuing to breach their obligations. Since 2001, Ofgem has imposed 30 financial penalties totalling over 90 million. 16 But new figures obtained by Labour under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the energy companies have continued to mistreat customers and are facing another 16 probes into mis- selling, poor customer service and other bad practice. 17 In opposition, David Cameron said that the regulator should have the power to force energy companies to pass on price cuts. I think we all feel that when the gas prices or the oil prices go up, they rush to pass the costs onto us and yet when we read in the papers that the oil price has collapsed and he gas prices are coming down, we wait for a very long time before we see anything coming through on our bills, and I think the first thing you ve got to do as you say is give the regulator the teeth to order that those reductions are made and that is what we would do. David Cameron, Cameron Direct (Bedford), 8 September 2009 But in government, he has failed to take any action to give Ofgem more power to act for consumers. 16 Source: Freedom of Information Request and figures from Ofgem website, accessed 19 August 2014, According to information disclosed by Ofgem under the Freedom of Information Act, Ofgem currently has 12 investigations ongoing and a further 4 at informal review stage. 8

9 THE TORY THREAT Five more years of the Tories means five more years of failing to stand up to the Big Six and act in the interests of consumers. The Tory threat is of five more years of business as usual for the big energy companies, with spiralling profits off the back of soaring household bills. Spiralling profits on the back of soaring energy bills Since David Cameron became Prime Minister, the average annual dual fuel energy bill has risen by almost Figures from the House of Commons library show that since 2010 household energy bills in the UK have risen twice as fast as inflation and four times as fast as wages. 19 And household energy prices in the UK have risen faster than almost anywhere else in the developed world since Country Ireland UK Korea Germany Hungary Norway France Netherlands Italy Finland Belgium Switzerland Slovakia Czech Republic Denmark Poland Sweden Austria Increase in domestic electricity prices (%) According to analysis from the House of Commons library, based on figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, household energy bills rose by 21% in real terms between 2010 and 2013, meaning household energy bills were 221 a year higher in 2013 compared to Some suppliers also implemented further price rises which came into force in December 2013 and 2014, meaning this is likely to be an underestimate of the total increase in household energy bills since According to analysis from the House of Commons library, based on figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, household energy bills rose by 21% in real terms between 2010 and According to analysis from the House of Commons library, inflation (CPI) totalled 11% between 2010 and 2013 and overall average earnings rose by 5.4% between 2010 and 2013 (based on ONS average earnings data). 20 According to analysis from the House of Commons library, based on figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, between 2010 and 2013 domestic electricity prices including taxes rose faster in the UK than any other country in the EU 15 and IEA for which data is available apart from Ireland. Domestic gas prices including taxes rose faster in the UK for all but four countries for which data is available. 9

10 USA 3.4 Japan 3.1 Source: House of Commons library analysis, based on figures from Department of Energy and Climate Change Country Greece Finland Spain New Zealand UK Korea Ireland Switzerland Czech Republic France Netherlands Sweden Belgium Slovakia Austria Germany USA Denmark Hungary Poland Increase in domestic gas prices (%) Source: House of Commons library analysis, based on figures from Department of Energy and Climate Change Meanwhile, the amount of profit that energy companies make per household has more than doubled from 40 in 2010 to a projected figure of 106 in Five more years of the Tories will mean five more years of soaring bills and spiralling profits. 21 Ofgem Supply Market Indicators, July 2014, 10

11 THE LABOUR FUTURE Labour recognises that the broken energy market and soaring bills are contributing to the cost- of- living crisis for families. A Labour government will act to create a fairer energy market. We will reform the market so that it works in the interests of consumers. And while our reforms are taking place, we will freeze energy bills for 20 months to protect families from unfair price hikes. Labour will freeze energy bills until 2017, saving the average household 120 a year and the average small business 5,500. While bills are frozen, Labour will undertake the biggest overhaul of our energy market since privatisation, breaking up the Big Six energy companies and forcing them to be more transparent about the way they buy and sell their energy. We will ring- fence supply businesses from generation businesses within vertically integrated companies. This will mean that each part of the business will need to operate as a separate legal entity within the group, with a distinct licence and separate information, governance and reporting arrangements. This will ensure that the interests of the supply business are better aligned with those of its customers, which will create much stronger incentives to keep wholesale costs down. We will require all energy companies to buy and sell 100 per cent of their power via an open exchange, or pool. Requiring all electricity to be traded via an exchange would centralise the communication of bid and offer prices, communicate those prices throughout the market and, therefore, create a level playing field which would allow any market participant to buy as low, or sell as high, as anyone else. It would also improve liquidity. We will require all energy companies to introduce a new simple tariff structure. We will replace Ofgem with a tough new regulator with the primary remit to protect the interest of existing and future consumers by ensuring that they get fair value from the market. The new regulator will have the ability to force companies to cut their prices when wholesale costs fall. We will also give the new regulator the power to revoke energy companies licences where there are repeated instances of serious and deliberate breaches of their licence conditions which harm the interests of consumers. We will also include the off- grid energy sector within the remit of the new regulator, bringing off- grid energy under regulation for the first time. We will commit to paying Winter Fuel Payments earlier for pensioners using off- grid energy; providing a practical solution to protect pensioners from the excessive price spikes associated with off- grid energy at the onset of winter. We will use money currently spent on energy efficiency to better target the fuel poor. We will deliver it more efficiently through area based programmes led by local authorities and companies in partnership. This will bring down costs, deliver better value for money and reduce the pressure on bills. 11

12 The Labour future / The Tory threat 6126_14 Reproduced from electronic media, promoted by Iain McNicol, General Secretary, the Labour Party, on behalf of the Labour Party, both at One Brewer s Green, London SW1H 0RH.

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