18 Oct 2011, 10:10pm
peak oil rant:
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  • We need Energy price transparency, don’t just tell us to switch, Dave

    Not content to let the odious Chris “need for speed” Huhne to tell the proletariat to switch suppliers, Cameron weighs in on the same theme too.

    The trouble with the UK energy market is that the Big Six do their damnedest to make their pricing conditional, obscure and impenetrable, they’ve also put in perverse misincentives to save energy.

    Forget switching. You want to know the cheapest way to save on the electricity bill? It would be to join forces with your adjacent contiguous neighbours and have two drop service and share the remaining connection. No I haven’t told you how to implement it because though it’s easy enough to do this sort of information is highly dangerous in the wrong hands. And do bear in mind that adjacent houses are often fed from alternate phases, which might give you concern on maintaining earth integrity with PME installs, among all the other things that could go wrong 😉 The energy companies Ts & Cs usually disallow this sort of thing explicitly, by the way.

    The reason this would work is that you are charged a standing charge per connection, either explicitly or obfuscated as a higher cost for the first few hundred units you use. Not only is that ripping you off, it is a major disincentive to reducing energy costs. I get charged a standing charge of over one unit of electricity a day – my usage is about three a day so a quarter of my bill is standing charge.

    There are other perversities in the energy market. For no good reason suppliers churn the rates every year, with the aim of shifting their customers onto the expensive standard rate while being able to offer new customers incentives. Combining the two fuels gives them more freedom to hike prices without being too obvious. Sometime they will tell you they have heroically held one fuel price, in which case you can be pretty damn sure the other fuel has been jacked up to compensate. And check the standing charge, or the usage breakpoints, all good places to hide bad news.

    I have used EDF for a year. They wrote me they are going to hike charges, so I entered my usage into uswitch, and lo and behold I could save £80 relative to the new cost with a bunch of suppliers. One of which was EDF, surprise. So I rang them up, lost half an hour of my life to get through to switch to the quoted tariff. Punks. It’s like with insurance, every damn year you have to go to something like confused.com just to get the price back to what it was last year.

    Sharing services across households would work with broadband service, and Sky (using the second box option, though both have to be connected to the same phone line) which are easier to share with your neighbours 😉

    Anyway, back to Mr Need for Speed, who tells use we should switch more. Well, yes, maybe, but perhaps it is the job of Government to regulate so that all providers have to couch their offers in comparable language, and not churn their prices? You have to give an equivalent APR for loans, so how about all firms having to give an equivalent annual cost for electricity and gas for low, average and high usages, as defined by Ofgem?

    While we’re on the subject of transparency, Mr Huhne, it is disingenuous to say

    No government can control volatile world energy prices

    without adding

    But the government has decided to add 7% to your bill in green energy taxes

    Now green energy may well be a good thing, after all Peak Oil may make that 7% a worthwhile investment. However, blaming the price rises on the devaluation of the pound and world energy prices without acknowledging that a fair amount of the hike was the result of deliberate government policy is disingenuous. Our Chris then goes for the cuddle factor to soften the blow, telling us

    We have also increased the electricity bill discounts available for the fuel poor by two-thirds, guaranteeing £120 off their bills to more than 600,000 of our most vulnerable pensioners.

    Well, yes, Chris, but since you were part of making some of these guys fuel poor by adding to their bills, and these discounts don’t come from your back pocket or the Fairness Fairy, I get to take a second shafting as my bills go up proportionally more to pay for the discounts, and for other people’s solar panels and feed in tariffs. Cheers, Chris, have one on me, mate.

    multifuel log burner

    Now energy is going to be a major pain in future, and I’m happy to tell Chris that I am not paying proportionally anywhere near my fair share for his impoverished pensioners, feed in tariffs and damned wind turbines because I have attacked my power usage and I am in the process of reducing my heating bill by using the low-tech alternative of wood, so he can take his renewables tax and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Energy costs are going to keep an awful lot of people in wage slavery in the years to come, and reducing costs by gaining control of the means of production is my preferred approach to independence, from rapacious energy suppliers, misguided Liberal Democrats with a disdain for the proletariat and Russian gas disputes.

    I might as well save some of my ire for Dave CamerHuhne, who delivers himself of this priceless quote

    We can’t control volatile world energy prices. But we can still help people get their bills down.

    No you can’t mate. The best they can do is keep the bills about the same. Not only has your buddy Mervyn King devalued the currency with extreme prejudice and intent to do more, which makes imports dearer, but gas and electricity have more than doubled in unit cost in recent times. I have dropped my usage by a third, but I can’t reduce my gas bills of late. All that is happening is mine goes up by less than most people’s. I’ve managed to press my case a lot better with electricity, but there is more you can change there.

     
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