Birmingham City Council are currently considering a new scheme which intends to provide cheaper energy for residents – especially the vulnerable and those in fuel poverty. The Council is proposing to partner with a “new, but established energy company”, to provide cheap energy for Birmingham residents. The partnership would be known as the Birmingham City Council Community Energy Company.
Although the specifics have been very vague so far, we have been informed that this scheme would be similar to the Fairer Power partnership between Cheshire East Council and OVO Energy, a company which has stated a commitment to delivering more renewable energy.
The scheme would work by buying energy in bulk in order to obtain better prices; savings which would be passed to consumers. The partner energy company would be responsible for commercial aspects of the scheme. Birmingham Friends of the Earth believes that this partnership could be a fantastic opportunity for the Council to take a step in the right direction towards sustainability.
If Birmingham City Council works with an energy company that provides a high percentage of renewable energy to customers as standard, it could switch thousands of residents to renewable, at low cost to the residents themselves.
Companies such as Ecotricity, Good Energy and OVO already offer renewable energy to consumers. However, making it the default through this sort of partnership would ensure that the environmental aspect is accessible to all.
Such a partnership should avoid larger companies, such as those in the ‘Big Six’ (British Gas, npower etc), as they utilise huge amounts of fossil fuels in order to supply their customers, as well as often being more expensive and notoriously bad at customer service.
We also believe that as this scheme could be dealing with vulnerable individuals, it is extremely important that the chosen company must be exceptional at customer service. Ideally The Community Energy Company partnership itself should ideally deal with customers, at least initially, rather than simply signposting vulnerable people into a certain contract.
In addition, pricing could be structured in such a way as to aid those susceptible to fuel poverty. This should include a pricing structure which charges less for the first units used, and more for later units, as opposed to the opposite which is the case with most companies, as well asreduced standing charges and abolishing exit fees.
Any surplus capital generated by the scheme should be passed on as savings to Birmingham through investments in energy efficiency, which would benefit the city in the long-term.
If the partnership includes these aspects then it could be make a real impact on fuel poverty and reducing Birmingham’s carbon footprint.