Energy is essential to our society; we need gas and electricity to heat our homes, cook food and to support modern living.
But since privatisation customers’ trust in the energy industry has eroded. As an industry we have become uncomfortably used to seeing ourselves towards the bottom of surveys of public trust.
While these surveys may grab headlines, they unfortunately also mask real improvements that are being made. Recent Ipsos MORI research on behalf of Energy UK found that nearly two-thirds of customers were satisfied with the services of their supplier and 75% found it easy to switch supplier.
The delivery of obligations like Priority Service Registers, the ECO and Warm Home Discount, along with voluntary initiatives such as the Energy UK Safety Net and industry-led reforms to halve the time it takes a customer to switch energy supplier, demonstrate suppliers’ commitment to their customers, especially those most in need.
More can, however, be done. Energy UK’s manifesto commits the industry to a renewed emphasis on customer care and improved services, supported by openness and transparency. Customers must be at the heart of the industry.
This means providing excellent customer service; helping customers choose the most appropriate tariff for their needs; making clear the costs that make up a customer’s bill; and completing the smart meter roll out to help customers better engage and control their energy use. At the same time industry must also continue to deliver a cost-effective and reliable energy supply for customers through a competitive and transparent market.
Yet these things will take time and industry cannot do them alone.
Through 2015 and beyond, there are crucial decisions to be made by government, the regulator and by the industry. We must safeguard our future energy supply and decarbonise to meet our climate change commitments, and meet these challenges in a way that maintains both the affordability of energy for households and the competitiveness of British businesses.
Government and the Regulator must also engage the public on the practical implications of energy policy; be clear about the costs of government policies; and work to improve the co-ordination between all stakeholders focused on making policy for the energy industry.
We all have a part to play. A new partnership between consumers, Government, the regulator, industry and others is required to rebuild trust and engage consumers. Industry has already started down this road and has made some important changes. We are committed to continual improvements which will ultimately benefit consumers.
Dan is responsible for developing and managing the associations approach on a wide range of retail and social policy issues, including fuel poverty and vulnerability. Dan previously worked in public affairs and communications, where he advised FTSE 100 firms and not for profit organisations on a wide range of public policy and political issues.