Who is in charge?
29th Mar 2021
As the debate around differing technology options hots up, politicians and regulators need to step into the fray and decide exactly who is the boss.
Is it the consumer, the ordinary household that just wants to live a comfortable existence, keeping warm in winter; having hot water when needed; with secure and affordable supplies of energy whilst yes, minimising their environmental footprint? Or is it the energy industry players who want to disrupt how energy is used, who want their price signals to change behaviour, and whose control over a single energy source allows their tentacles ever deeper into our lives?
Big philosophical questions, I know, but important ones to get the right answers now before it is too late to act. And for politicians and regulators another challenge, if this wasn’t enough, how do they ensure that our energy future is fair for all? How do we avoid discriminatory practice? How do we ensure the least well-off in our society can access the same preferential deals that the better off can? I’m yet to see much evidence of this concern but it needs to start now.
The beauty of the gas network is that heat and hot water, two key essentials in our modern lives, cost the consumer the same regardless of the time of day accessed. A shower at 6am costs the same as one at 6pm. We choose when to shower. It really shouldn’t be the energy industry that encourages/penalises you for that choice. Does the energy industry work for the consumer or vice versa? Ofgem, where do you stand on this?
And should a disabled or housebound individual be penalised further by having to pay higher peak energy costs during the day? If that isn’t discriminatory I don’t know what is. For parents who want to give their kids a bath in the evening before bedtime, should it be more expensive to do because 7pm is a reasonable time for a child to sleep? Or do we return to the 1970s, with the parental warnings of “don’t use all the hot water” because we heat the tank overnight?
These are all questions that go to the heart of the ethics of our energy future. Politicians and regulators, time to step up and tell us who should be in charge.
Mike Foster, CEO