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Iberdrola and GE Hitachi Join Forces to Reuse UK Nuclear Waste

21 Jul 2014

Iberdrola and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation towards the deployment of PRISM technology as a credible long-term solution to reuse existing reprocessed plutonium in the UK.

The two companies, together with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which advises on the decommissioning plans for current and planned nuclear power stations and is in charge of waste management, will analyse the options for GEH’s PRISM technology which can reuse the plutonium stockpile to generate electricity.

Iberdrola will bring its expertise and excellence as a nuclear power operator in Spain and provider of nuclear engineering services as well as the experience of more than ten years developing nuclear power projects.

In January 2014, the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) noted that, on the information provided, PRISM’s fourth generation nuclear power technology was considered a credible option for managing the UK’s plutonium stockpile.

PRISM is a proven, safe and mature technology which provides a safe, innovative and clean solution to harness the remaining energy potential of used nuclear fuel, in the form of plutonium, to generate electricity free of CO2 emissions whilst creating significant investment in UK jobs and skills.

First estimates by GEH indicate that PRISM technology, with a life span of at least 60 years, could recycle the UK’s entire plutonium stockpile -which amounts to over 100 tonnes- in 25 years.

GEH, the global nuclear alliance between GE and Hitachi is one of the world’s key suppliers of nuclear technology and services. For several decades, GEH has been partnering with Iberdrola in the development and deployment of nuclear projects.

Iberdrola operates 3,403 MW nuclear capacity through its participation in seven nuclear power plants in Spain (Cofrentes, Almaraz –units I and II–, Trillo, Garoña, Vandellós II and Ascó II). The company also has proven expertise in the UK where its subsidiary ScottishPower is one of the Big Six energy companies.

In addition to Iberdrola’s experience in the nuclear industry, the Group’s engineering and project management subsidiary, Iberdrola Ingenieaia, is well established in this sector. It is currently participating in the construction of unit 3 at Flamanville nuclear power plant, in France, and has recently completed the upgrade of Laguna Verde nuclear power plant in Mexico. It also participates in the consortium that manufactures coils for the international nuclear fusion research and engineering project (ITER) which is currently building the world’s largest fusion reactor.

Story appears courtesy of Iberdrola.



Thrifty Tenants Can Now Take Control of Their Energy Bills

18 Jul 2014

Latest data from Ofgem’s 2014 Consumer Engagement survey shows that a shocking three quarters of bill paying tenants admit they’ve never switched energy or gas supplier in order to try and save their hard earned cash (77% for electricity and 74% for gas).

Furthermore, despite the fact that shopping around could save tenants up to £200, one in five (20%) admit that they weren’t aware they could switch to a different supplier. The research highlights the sheer lack of awareness among tenants of their rights to shop around to get a better energy deal. Renters are only half as likely to switch compared to homeowners: 26% of renters said they had ever switched gas supplier compared to 47% of homeowners, with similar figures for switching electricity supplier (23% compared to 45%).

A common myth among renters is that they have to accept the energy suppliers already in place when they move in. But very rarely is this the case. The Be an Energy Shopper website (www.goenergyshopping.co.uk) has been updated to include the key facts, along with top tips for breaking down the barriers which prevent tenants applying their savvy shopping habits to their energy bills.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem’s CEO, said: “The number of British households renting stands at 9 million and counting, yet research has shown that this group is not shopping around for their energy, and missing out on savings of up to £200. We’ve now updated the Be An Energy Shopper website so that it also addresses tenants’ needs, and therefore they too can get a better deal on their energy.”

Story appears courtesy of Ofgem.


Ofgem Approves New £1.2 Billion Scottish Subsea Link and Transmission Charging Reform

15 Jul 2014

Ofgem has given the green light for a new subsea link in the north of Scotland. Scottish Hydro Electricity Transmission (SHE Transmission)’s significant upgrade of the electricity network is a £1.2 billion project. It is expected to connect 1.2GW of new renewable electricity generation following completion in 2018. This will help meet Britain’s renewable target at a lower cost to consumers.

The new subsea link will connect the electricity grid on either side of the Moray Firth. SHE Transmission has already submitted more details on the project, and Ofgem is currently analysing them to check that the spending, technical and delivery plans for the upgrade are appropriate and offer value for money for consumers. If Ofgem finds that the project could be delivered for less, then it will lower the amount of funding allowed to complete it. We will consult on the detail of the funding proposals this autumn.

Ofgem has also announced changes to the methodology for calculating what generators pay to use the electricity transmission network. This change is being made to better reflect the costs that different generators have on the system. It will come into effect on 1 April 2016. Ofgem analysis indicates the changes will lead to a more efficient system which will benefit consumers.

The methodology will retain the locational signal to encourage generators to build as close as possible to where energy demand is. This reduces the need to build costly infrastructure such as electricity pylons. The main update will recognise that renewable generation uses the system less than traditional forms of generation and so imposes lower costs. The change will therefore more accurately reflect the costs that different generators put on the electricity network.

Martin Crouch, Senior Partner, Transmission said: “This is a major step forward for an essential upgrade to the high voltage grid so that more renewable energy can connect to the networks. Today’s decision means that the company can move forward with work on the upgrade. We have already started on the next phase of checking SHE’s spending plans and we will ensure it completes the work as efficiently as possible so that consumers pay a fair price for this.”

Commenting on the plans to change transmission charges, Mr. Crouch added: “The changes to transmission charging are the result of an extensive consultation process and detailed analysis. The new arrangements more accurately reflect the costs of Britain’s diverse energy generation and will lead to lower costs overall for consumers.”

Story appears courtesy of Ofgem.


OVO Energy Announces Jason Sharpe as Managing Director

14 Jul 2014

In a strategic move to ensure the business maintains a ruthless focus on delivering first class customer service, OVO Energy has announced the appointment of Jason Sharpe as Managing Director of OVO Energy. Founder, Stephen Fitzpatrick will take on the role of CEO in order to focus on the wider business as it prepares to expand and diversify.

Jason Sharpe, who joined OVO Energy in September 2013, previously held the position of Customer Services Director. During this time, OVO Energy has more than doubled in size with its customer base expanding by 130% and employees increasing to almost 550 across its London and Bristol offices.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO OVO Energy said: “I can think of no better person to lead OVO Energy as we enter this next phase of expansion and innovation. The company has experienced a frenetic growth period, and during his time at OVO, Jason has expertly steered the Customer Services Team with enthusiasm and exacting standards, whilst supporting the overall management of the company.”

He added: “OVO was founded as a business that always puts the customer first and Jason has demonstrated incredible leadership skills and business vision, whilst keeping the customer at the heart of everything we do. He has the ability to galvanise staff with the OVO vision and I believe Jason is the best person for the job as we enter this exciting period of transformation.”

Jason Sharpe, Managing Director said: “OVO Energy is a challenger brand that hopes to truly revolutionise the energy sector. We’ve caused waves in the industry by challenging the status quo and prompting hundreds of thousands of consumers to switch their energy supply. I’m proud to have been chosen to leading such as dynamic business and look forward to guiding the company as it transforms, innovates and pushes boundaries, while maintaining our entrepreneurial spirit.”

As OVO Energy grows and expands the team, Jason’s appointment is accompanied by Melissa Gander’s move from Head of Customer Services to Managing Director of OVO In Home Technology. As Head of Customer Services since 2009, Melissa managed the growth and development of the operational teams from start-up though to a 150,000 customer base as well as nurturing vital services such as customer care, billing and collections and industry operations.

Stephen Fitzpatrick commented: “We established OVO In Home Technology to deliver end to end ‘smart’ solutions for OVO Energy and its customers. While the division began with the search for the most innovative components for our smart metering solution, this was just the starting point.”
Melissa Gander, Managing Director of IHT added: “OVO Energy is committed to leading the way in implementing innovative and efficient measures to ensure a sustainable and scalable energy supply for our customers’ future. Our work so far on smart metering is just a fraction of what we can achieve as technology develops and customers become savvier.”

Stephen Fitzpatrick said: ”One of OVO’s greatest assets is that we’re a streamlined and nimble business with an ability to move fast and change direction quickly. This is what makes us unique and has been a key driver in our success.”

He added: “By taking on the role of CEO, I can take a holistic view of the business needed to jump on opportunities and drive the expansion of the company. This investment in OVO’s senior leadership team will lay the foundations for the future growth of the company.”

Story & Ovo Energy Logo appear courtesy of Ovo Energy, the logo is copyright and must not be used without prior consent from Ovo Energy.

Ofgem Proposes Improvements to Green Tariffs to Protect Consumers

08 Jul 2014

Ofgem is proposing changes to the green tariffs market to ensure that consumers are empowered in making the right decisions. These changes will ensure that suppliers clearly inform their customers and provide evidence of whether or not there will be environmental benefits from a particular tariff.

The voluntary Green Supply Guidelines were developed by Ofgem in 2009 and then implemented through the independent “Green Energy Supply Certification Scheme”. This ensured that consumers choosing a certified green tariff could be confident that it provides environmental benefits. Now an increasing number of tariffs that make environmental claims are uncertified, leaving the majority of consumers unable to distinguish between those tariffs with and without environmental benefits.

Following research with consumers and to make these tariffs simpler, clearer and fairer, Ofgem is proposing three key principles that green tariffs will need to follow in the future:

Transparency – To help consumers understand the market better, we are asking suppliers to clearly say if a green tariff does not offer any environmental benefit other than those that consumers already pay for through costs embedded in their energy bill or through taxation. This includes publishing an annual report on how they are providing environmental benefits or being clear to consumers if it doesn’t.

Environmental benefits – Suppliers will need to show that environmental benefits happen because consumers chose a tariff and not solely due to subsidies or supplier obligations. This requirement will protect consumers but will also allow suppliers flexibility and opportunities to innovate.

Evidence of Supply – Suppliers must have evidence that verifies where the electricity supplied in a tariff comes from. This means that they must show they have enough Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin certificates and have retired any other certificates for the same products.

Sarah Harrison, Senior Partner for Sustainable Development at Ofgem said: “We believe these changes will give consumers confidence to make more informed decisions about buying tariffs based on renewable supply.”

Following consultation, Ofgem aims for these changes to be fully in place by 1 April 2015.

Story appears courtesy of Ofgem.


Ofgem Refers the Energy Market for a Full Competition Investigation

07 Jul 2014

Ofgem has referred the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for a full investigation. This follows on from Ofgem’s proposal in March and the following consultation. An investigation should ensure, once and for all, that competition works effectively for consumers, by bearing down on prices while driving improvements in customer service and innovation. It will also help provide the confidence that is needed for investment in the energy sector and complement Ofgem’s recent reforms to make the market simpler, clearer and fairer for consumers.

The recent assessment of the energy market, prepared by Ofgem with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and CMA, showed that competition isn’t working as well as it should for consumers. It showed increasing distrust of energy suppliers, uncertainty about the relationship between the supply businesses and the generation arms of the six largest suppliers, and rising profits with no clear evidence of suppliers reducing their own costs or becoming better at meeting customer expectations.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem Chief Executive, said:
“Now is the right time to refer the energy market to the CMA for the benefit of consumers. There is near-unanimous support for a referral and the CMA investigation offers an important opportunity to clear the air. This will help rebuild consumer trust and confidence in the energy market as well as provide the certainty investors have called for.

“The energy market is also going to change rapidly over the next few years with the roll-out of smart meters, the government’s electricity market reforms, and closer integration with European energy markets. A CMA investigation should ensure there are no barriers to stop effective competition bearing down on prices and delivering the benefits of these changes to consumers.”

As well as playing a full role assisting the CMA, Ofgem will continue its work to protect consumers. These include pushing forward on next-day switching, improving the support available for vulnerable consumers in finding the best energy deal, developing new rules for brokers to follow in the non-domestic market, and continuing to ensure that consumers make the most of recent reforms to make the market simpler, clearer and fairer.

The CMA will begin its investigation immediately and is likely to publish final decisions by the end of 2015. The CMA can decide which features of the market to focus on in its investigation and use its powers to address any structural and behavioural issues that would undermine competition. Ofgem would fully expect the CMA to consider the action it has taken to intensify competition and protect consumers. The main areas that Ofgem would also expect the CMA to look at include:

  • the relationship between the supply businesses and generation arms of the six largest suppliers
  • barriers to entry and expansion for suppliers
  • the profitability of the six largest suppliers
  • whether or not there is sufficient competition between the large energy suppliers
  • the trend of suppliers consistently setting higher prices for consumers who have not switched
  • low consumer engagement that contributes to weak competitive pressure in the market

Story appears courtesy of Ofgem.


Ofgem Secures £1 Million Payment by British Gas for Mis-Selling

04 Jul 2014

Ofgem has secured a £1 million package from British Gas after they mis-sold to customers in Sainsbury’s stores nationwide and in Westfield shopping centre, Shepherds Bush. In addition, staff and branding in Sainsbury’s stores did not make clear that British Gas was the supply partner for Sainsbury’s Energy.

Between February 2011 and March 2013, British Gas staff in Sainsbury’s stores and Westfield shopping centre made exaggerated savings claims to prospective customers. Sales staff did not compare tariffs on a like for like basis, comparing monthly direct debit with quarterly payment methods to produce inaccurate savings estimates. In some cases, customers were told that they would save money by switching, but in fact they paid more with Sainsbury’s Energy or British Gas than they would have paid if they had remained with their current supplier.

British Gas has identified customers who were potentially mis-sold to and has made an average payment of £130 to 4,300 affected customers. It was unable to contact around 1,300 ex-customers and this compensation is part of the £434,000 that will go to directly benefit customers via the British Gas Energy Trust.

Sarah Harrison, Senior Partner in charge of enforcement said: “Ofgem welcomes British Gas’ action to tackle its sales failures and compensate customers quickly when it became aware of mis-selling.

“Ofgem expects all suppliers to put this poor behaviour behind them and really start acting in a way that will help consumers trust energy suppliers. Where they don’t, Ofgem will act.”

British Gas became aware of this issue and reported it to Ofgem in April 2013. It took immediate action to correct the issues. Given British Gas’ prompt action, Ofgem has decided to accept this consumer package in lieu of opening a formal investigation.

Story appears courtesy of Ofgem.


NI Water Fined for River Pollution from Wastewater Treatment Works

25 June 2014

NI Water has pleaded guilty to causing a pollution incident from Tandragee Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) on 24th May 2012 to the Cusher River.

A spokesperson for NI Water explained, “Upon inspection with NIEA, both storm tanks and chemical bunds were empty and there was no visible evidence of a leak. It was only after a thorough investigation of the drainage discharge pipe, including CCTV carried by staff, that a very small leak was found. Staff acted quickly and repaired it immediately.

“Due to the small size of the leak, only the immediate area of the discharge was affected.

“NI Water co-operated fully with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency during the subsequent clean-up and investigation.”

NI Water was fined £10,000 but intends to appeal the amount of the fine.

NI Water views the protection of the environment as a major priority and invests significant resources and measures to safeguard it. NI Water is the only public body in Northern Ireland to have earned International ISO 14001 status, an international standardisation awarded on the basis of a company’s environmental management system.

NI Water has invested millions over the years to bring the sewerage network system and wastewater treatment works up to an acceptable standard. With ongoing investment, we will continue to improve wastewater services for the people of Northern Ireland.

Story appears courtesy of NI Water.


Commission Clears Acquisition by Centrica of Bord Gais Energy

23 Jun 2014

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control by Centrica of the United Kingdom of Bord Gáis Energy Limited (BGE) of Ireland.

Centrica is an integrated energy company, which produces, sources and supplies gas and electricity for residential and business customers in the UK and North America.

BGE is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bord Gáis Eireann, with a focus on the purchase and supply of gas and electricity for residential and business customers in the Republic of Ireland.

On the basis of national markets for the wholesale supply of gas there would be no overlap in the Republic of Ireland. The Parties’ activities overlap in a market for the wholesale supply of gas in the UK. However, the increment is small, the combined market share is modest and the Parties continue to face competition from numerous other players.

Therefore, the transaction does not create a risk of input foreclosure with regard to the retail markets in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.  Moreover, while BGE has significant activities in the markets for the retail supply of gas in the Republic of Ireland and Centrica has significant activities these markets in the UK, the Parties’ competitors in the market for the wholesale supply of gas have sufficient economic alternatives to sell their supplies. Therefore, the transaction does not create a risk of customer foreclosure with regard to the retail markets in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns. The transaction was examined under the normal procedure.

Story appears courtesy of europa.eu


Npower to Halt Telesales Unless it Resolves Billing Issues

19 Jun 2014

Ofgem has secured commitments from npower to take immediate action to put right its billing and complaints issues, alongside launching a wider investigation into customer service failings under Ofgem’s new Standards of Conduct.

Ofgem is requiring npower to resolve major billing issues no later than the end of August 2014 and publish monthly progress updates on its website. Failure to meet monthly targets will result in npower ceasing all proactive telesales to new customers until they are met. The parallel investigation into npower’s customer service failings is the first case to be opened under Ofgem’s new Standards of Conduct (SoC) and could lead to a financial penalty or redress payment if they are found to have broken rules.

Sarah Harrison, senior partner in charge of enforcement said: “npower customers have suffered service failures for too long, that’s why Ofgem has secured binding commitments from npower to reduce its bill backlog or face curbs on sales, alongside launching a wider investigation under Ofgem’s new Standards of Conduct.

“Ofgem has been monitoring npower’s service closely and we have been increasingly concerned about the slow progress to tackle failings. npower’s recovery plan has not delivered as far and fast as is necessary. Our analysis of complaints data also raises some serious concerns which will be thoroughly examined in our investigation.

There has been some progress since Ofgem’s intervention in December – long standing problems in relation to new customers and the set-up of direct debit payments have now been tackled, and many of the oldest cases of late billing have been cleared.

This move follows Ofgem’s intervention in December 2013 which led to an apology by npower’s CEO Paul Massara to all its customers, payment of £1m to good causes, and a commitment that no customer would be left out of pocket as a result of billing failures.

The SoC are part of Ofgem’s reforms for a simpler, clearer and fairer energy market. The SoC state that suppliers must treat consumers fairly. They are wide-ranging and cover supplier behaviour, the information that they provide to consumers, and their internal processes. The investigation will also look into npower’s compliance with industry complaint handling standards.

Story appears courtesy of Ofgem.