Doncaster council plans for own brand energy may cut family bills

Councillor Tony Corden
Councillor Tony Corden
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Residents could save up to £300 a year under plans which would see Doncaster Council team up with an ‘ethical’ energy supplier to provide cheaper fuel.

The plan was put before the council’s cabinet meeting earlier this week and agreed unanimously.

It is the latest proposal to helping residents across the borough to better understand their energy usage and also reduce it.

The Big Power Switch initative, which was agreed by the Cabinet in December 2013 has seen 1,500 customers save £366,000 collectively by switching energy providers.

Councillor Tony Corden, cabinet member for Customer, Coporate and Trading Services, said: “Our big energy switch service has been a success but we need to build on it with an ethical energy company that can supply cheaper energy.

“We will focus on helping those using expensive pre-payment meters to help them get a better deal. Each house we help could save up to £300 a year. We hope to help up to 2,500 houses in the first year.”

The concept will see a licensed energy company providing the fuel and customer services, while the council will brand the provision under what is known as a white label agreement. The council would not have a supply licence and they would not need to set up a new company.

The authority will now look to recruit a suitable domestic energy supplier.

Mr Corden added that he wanted to see an end to the market being dominated by ‘the big six’ energy companies, which include British Gas, EDF Energy and NPower. However, he admitted that the council could not guarantee their tariff would always be the cheapest available on the market.

“The energy supply marker is quite volatile and the cheapest market price can be superseded the next day, albeit the difference can be quite small.”

However, it was anticipated that residents could pay as little as two pence per unit for gas and 11 pence per kilowatt hour for electricity.

He said that residents would always have the freedom to switch to other energy providers and would not be tied in to a contract.

In addition to helping residents find cheaper energy deals, the council also aims to provide them with smart meters - designed to show how much gas and electricity is being used in a house at any time.

Councillor Nuala Fennelly praised the plan, but said was concerned people would struggle to use the smart meters. “I’ve had my smart meter for three months and I love it, but I think it’s going to be hard for some people to get to grips with it. It’s got lots of menus. I’m quite IT savvy so I’m all right with it but some people might not be. I think we need to provide people with guidance on how to use it,” she said.

Mr Corden said residents would be given help using the devices, which are due to be rolled out across the borough from August. The goal is every home will have one by 2020.