October 24 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, October 27, 2012
A partnership between two councils in mid-Norfolk and Lincolnshire could use the bulk purchase power of thousands of their residents to drive down their energy bills.
Soaring energy costs have risen to the top of the political agenda, with EDF yesterday announcing a 10.8pc increase in gas and electricity prices, while NPower has said its electricity prices will go up by 9.1pc.
Breckland and South Holland councils hope to create a list of residents interested in switching to a new provider if the price was lower, and then use the lure of thousands of new customers to encourage energy companies to offer a better deal.
William Nunn, leader of Breckland Council, said the council would publicise the idea through its website and Voice magazine, and conduct a reverse auction with power providers once enough people had expressed an interest.
The energy firms would only be told the number of people who were willing to switch, and not the detail of individual customers.
Mr Nunn said: “I would like to think we can do it not just with electricity. One of the big things locally is oil and gas. With the rural isolation they need oil and gas and oil companies divide and rule.
“If you are a little old lady in the villages you just don’t know about [switching] and you are paying a fortune. There’s got to be a way we can help them.
“At a time when we know many things are tight it’s something we need to investigate. I don’t know if the public will be engaged or not but I think we should use our community voice to bring this to the forefront.”
Pedro Guertler, head of research for the Association for the Conservation of Energy, said 80pc of customers currently do not switch providers and welcomed the initiative, but said it was not a long-term solution.
He said: “It’s a combination of bulk purchase and this idea a company can win a whole chunk of customers in one go. It teases out their competitive instincts, which are sadly lacking.”
Breckland Labour leader Terry Jermy described it as a “brilliant idea” which the Labour party had been advocating nationally.
News of the Breckland initiative came as Norwich City Council launched its own Big Switch and Save scheme on October 22.