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British Gas owner Centrica warns financial outlook is uncertain

The owner of British Gas has warned investors it has faced a difficult start to the year, weeks after sacking hundreds of its engineers through a controversial fire and rehire scheme to help turn the business around.

Centrica told its shareholders its financial outlook for the year was uncertain after the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continued to drag on the business, which has struggled in recent years due to rising competition in the energy market.

In the first quarter of this year, demand for electricity was 15% lower than the year before among the company’s business customers, the company said in a trading update ahead of its annual shareholder meeting. Home boiler repairs and installations were 11% lower than the same time last year because non-essential home service visits were postponed to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The slump in home energy services was also due to a long-running series of strikes by thousands of its engineers in response to the company’s plan to toughen its employment contracts in an effort to boost productivity and become more competitive.

Under the fire and rehire plans, most of Centrica’s 20,000 staff were told to accept the new conditions, which would increase working hours for its engineers, or lose their jobs.

The company confirmed that 460 engineers were dismissed last month, as a result of what the GMB trade union has called “a dirty, bullying tactic”. A survey by the union found that more than three-quarters of the public believe that fire and rehire schemes should be made illegal.

Chris O’Shea, who became Centrica chief executive last year, said his plans to modernise the company remained on track and “the difficult, but necessary process to move colleagues on to new terms and conditions is now complete”.

“We are pleased that 98% of UK colleagues have accepted the new contracts which will enable us to better serve the needs of our customers. Although the external environment remains uncertain, our tight focus on cash and on fixing the basics across the group leaves us well placed as we continue the turnaround of our company,” O’Shea said.

O’Shea hopes to save £100m in operational costs this year as part of a plan to stem the steady decline of the FTSE 250 energy company in recent years. British Gas has lost about 3 million household energy customers in the last decade following an influx of successful new energy startups. Centrica crashed out of the FTSE 100 after losing more than 70% of its market value in the last five years.

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50,000 jobs by 2050: UK Government outlines plans to scale up carbon capture sector

Published late on Friday (7 May), the policy paper states that the UK will aim to capture and store 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030. Should this target be met, and progress continue accelerating between 2030 and 2050, the paper states, some 50,000 jobs could be supported.

The emerging CCUS sector is described in the report as a “great incubator of green jobs” as Ministers seek to get the UK on track to host two million such roles by the end of the decade. It is also described as a sector that can help deliver a “fair and equitable transition” for oil and gas workers who will likely need new roles in the coming years, given that many in the sector will have transferrable skills.

While the report describes itself as a ‘roadmap’, there is little detail on how the Government will support the skills, infrastructure and technologies needed to deliver on 2030 and 2050 targets. It states that a full map of opportunities and challenges, as well as Government supports, will be published later this year. This document will come alongside a ‘Fit for CCUS’ scheme for businesses, designed to help high emitters like oil and gas majors and heavy industrial sites to prepare to adopt the technology.

The document does state that BEIS will work more closely with bodies including the Treasury, the Department for National Trade, the British Business Bank and the National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) to develop the map. Ministers have faced multiple accusations in recent months of failing to work across departments to avoid net-zero loopholes. The NIB is notably entering operation this week, with questions still remaining about its climate remit.

It also reassures readers within the sector that BEIS remains open to supporting CCUS projects it is not currently aware of, through mechanisms such as the dedicated Infrastructure Fund. Announced late last year as part of the Ten Point Plan, the Fund’s remit was updated last week in line with the UK’s adoption of the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) Sixth Carbon Budget recommendations last month. The paper also expresses the possibility of CCUS being included in future post-Brexit trade deals.

Existing projects, the policy paper states, should identify and advertise potential delivery contractors “as visibly and as early as possible”.

Clusters and dispersed sites

The paper comes after a report commissioned by BEIS, and published last year, concluded that the department is lacking a “comprehensive regulatory framework” to overcome challenges to “dispersed” sites that would be suitable for CCUS but that aren’t located in industrial clusters.

Indeed, the overarching target for CCUS to date has been for the UK to fully decarbonise at least one industrial cluster by 2040. Clusters are seen as less risky locations for deployment as, with dispersed sites, new transportation infrastructure will be needed.

The UK Government has increasingly focused on CCS since setting its legally binding net-zero target. Before then, the previous £1bn competition fund for CCS was actually scrapped by the now-defunct Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

According to the CCC, CCUS is a “non-optional” component of the UK’s transition to net-zero. However, some green groups would like to see Ministers doing more to prioritise technologies that are already mature, alongside nature-based solutions for sequestering carbon, in the short to mid-term.

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‘93% of stakeholders back UK grid charging reform’

Over 90% of stakeholders support reform of the current transmission charging regime to support the UK’s legally binding net zero emissions target, according to a survey by SSEN Transmission.

 

The company said the existing regime currently results in Scottish generators paying a higher cost for use of the transmission network compared to other areas in the UK.

 

For example, while a wind farm in the north of Scotland pays £5.50 per unit of energy, an equivalent wind farm in Wales will get paid £2.80 per unit, it said.

SSEN Transmission said that following the publication of a Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) charges discussion paper earlier this year, it has published a follow up summary report this week which analyses and outlines the feedback received from stakeholders on the paper’s findings.

 

It said 93% of all stakeholders agreed that some form of TNUoS reform is required, while 84% told SSEN that TNUoS acts as a barrier to the delivery of their renewable projects in Scotland.

 

SSEN Transmission head of whole system Andrew Urquhart (pictured) said: “Our generation customers and wider stakeholders have been consistently telling us that charges for transmission access in the north of Scotland, as well as uncertainty about future charges, are acting as a barrier to the commercial viability of renewable energy projects.

 

“This, in turn, is making it difficult for us to determine system investment needs for our transmission network.

 

“It is clear from our analysis and engagement to date that there is overwhelming support for TNUoS reform and that urgent action is required to address current barriers in the context of the climate emergency.

 

“Given the level of concern raised by our stakeholders, we hope the feedback outlined in our report will help to encourage action on the need for an urgent review of the current regime to support the UK’s ambitious net zero targets and green recovery goals.”

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UPDATE: BEIS follows through on CfD removal threat

UK Energy Ministry BEIS has confirmed it will pull the plug on supports for renewable energy developments that fail to live up to commitments made in their supply chain plans at future CfD auction rounds.

 

The move is a sweeping reform to a long-standing process that requires every developer chasing subsidy support for a project of 300MW or above to provide BEIS with plans outlining how developers will build the projects.

 

The changes are being sought to incentivise more local content, especially from offshore wind where the government is chasing a sector deal target of 60% local content by 2030.

BEIS said it will introduce a new ‘operational condition precedent’ allowing the government to terminate CfDs for projects which fail to follow through with promises made in plans.

 

As part of the changes, the review of each developer’s delivery of its plans will now be brought forward to the milestone delivery date, which is 18 months after contract award.

 

Projects were previously assessed for supply chain compliance at commissioning.

 

At this stage developers will need to provide ‘supply chain implementation statements’ which must be certified before power payments can commence.

 

Vattenfall UK country manager Danielle Lane said the earlier assessment date is “a positive step” that will help manage the threat CfD removal poses to multi-billion-pound projects.

 

“The changes make it more likely that investment decisions can be taken to keep projects on track to deliver significant amounts of renewables capacity by the mid-2020s,” she said.

 

Lane however warned the threat of removing CfD backing from failing projects may lead to adverse effects.

 

“The prospect of losing a Contract for Difference at MDD stage is still a significant investment risk however, and as such it is vital that a clear and transparent supply chain assessment process is put in place,” she said.

 

“Our priority is to deliver the best-value projects for bill payers, as well as supporting the growth of the UK supply chain.”

 

BEIS said the changes are being implemented following consultation with developers, renewables associations and trade unions.

 

The ministry is currently evaluating responses from a separate consultation over the introduction of a so-called ‘supply chain plan questionnaire’ for developers and will outline more detail on this shortly.

 

RenewableUK deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said: “The latest supply chain proposals set challenging new demands for project developers, so it’s vital that the guidance is clear on how we can demonstrate the contribution we’re making by creating thousands of jobs, developing skills and fostering innovation across the supply chain, as well as building vital new infrastructure.

“Project developers are already working with manufacturers to help them understand our projects’ needs and timelines, which will support investment in new facilities and the development of new skills in our workforce.

 

“Underpinning all this, we need large volumes of new capacity in the next CfD auction for new contracts to generate clean power to keep us on track for our 2030 target, quadrupling what we’ve already installed.”

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EAC calls for minimum floor price for ‘flawed’ Smart Export Guarantee

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is calling for the introduction of a floor price above zero for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) to help support community energy.

This follows industry feedback gathered through a call for evidence regarding community energy issued by the EAC in February that saw 57 responses. Industry representatives told the committee that in its current form, the SEG – which came into effect in January 2020 and requires energy suppliers to offer an export tariff – is “flawed because it provides no minimum export price, and no long-term certainty beyond 12-month periods”.

As a result, the EAC is also recommending that the government extends the guarantee on the energy export price. These recommendations have been issued in a letter addressed to energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, detailing how while the SEG has replaced the feed-in tariff (FiT), it puts the community energy sector at a disadvantage to larger renewable energy projects which receive long-term certainty from Contracts for Difference.

Indeed, the sector’s feedback included how changes to the subsidies available over the past five years have negatively affected the financial viability of community energy projects, particularly small rooftop solar and urban projects. Prior to its implementation, the SEG – and in particular the policy gap between it and the FiT – faced criticism from across the industry, with the chief ask being the introduction of a minimum floor price for the scheme, most notably from Solar Energy UK (then the Solar Trade Association).

The letter goes on to express the disappointment of the committee that the energy white paper only mentions community energy once and local energy twice, recommending that the forthcoming net zero strategy emphasises the importance of community energy and that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy develops a complementary UK-side community energy strategy including practical support measures.

Additionally, community energy and environmental groups, charities and electricity network operators suggested to the EAC that the current regulatory regime for energy distribution acts largely as a barrier for the growth of the sector in the UK. Grid connection costs and access charges can be too high for small groups and do not account for the wider decarbonisation benefits including education and social support that projects bring to their communities, the letter said.

‘Right of local supply’ was also identified as being in need of some work, enabling local energy markets to balance supply and demand at a community level and build energy resilience by harnessing edge-of-the-grid potential in the future.

Currently, the inability of a community project to sell their energy to their own community and accommodate local demand is a significant barrier to project development, according to the evidence gathered by the EAC, which said that while the Local Electricity Bill sought to address this, it will fall at the end of the Parliamentary session.

The government should therefore remove the regulatory barriers to allow community energy projects to sell their energy to their local communities, and Ofgem should also provide guidance to distribution network operators (DNOs) on how to incorporate community energy into the energy network.

EAC chairman, Philip Dunne, said that the committee’s continuing inquiry into technological innovations and climate change has shown there is no shortage of innovative ideas but “what is lacking is government support, a coherent plan and recognition of current barriers” with community energy no exception to that.

“For net zero Britain requires us to change our behaviour and adapt to a low-carbon lifestyle. Community energy can help achieve this – not only powering homes and businesses up and down the country but by engaging local citizens on the benefits of renewable energy and – in many ways – how we can do our bit to help keep the lights on ourselves.”

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Symbio Energy rapped over ‘threatening’ responses to negative reviews

Symbio Energy has been hit with a formal warning from review website Trustpilot, after MoneySavingExpert.com brought to its attention the way the supplier responds to negative reviews, which left some customers feeling threatened.

Over the past few months, angry customers of Symbio Energy have complained on the MSE Forum, social media and online review sites, as well as contacting us, about customer service issues at the small electricity-only supplier.

Many of the complaints about the supplier were posted on the review website Trustpilot. Symbio Energy had been replying to poor reviews on the platform including a link – with no context or comment – to an unrelated BBC News article about a man forced to pay thousands of pounds in libel damages to a legal firm over a negative Trustpilot review.

Customers of the firm have told us they perceive this to be “aggressive” and “threatening”. Trustpilot has now launched an investigation – sending Symbio what it calls a formal ‘cease and desist notice’ after being alerted to the issue by MoneySavingExpert.com.

Symbio Energy told us it added the links to its Trustpilot responses to “remind parties that if they wish to leave a comment it must be true”.

Most of the complaints we’ve seen are around the estimates it uses to calculate bills, with many people saying it has ignored the meter readings they’ve provided and used inflated estimates instead. Many are also reporting they’re struggling to get a response to their queries from the company, which Symbio blames on “operational issues” within its back office in India, caused by the pandemic.

What does Trustpilot say?

A Trustpilot spokesperson said: “We expect everyone to be a respectful contributor to our platform. Amongst other things, our guidelines for consumers and businesses require everyone to ‘play nice’. Where consumers or businesses act in a way that is threatening, or is perceived to be so, we treat this as a breach of our guidelines and take steps to put a stop to it.

“In this instance, we have taken swift action, sending a formal cease and desist letter to the business demanding that all responses contravening our guidelines be quickly amended. As we investigate the business’s profile further, we have also placed a consumer alert to warn everyone of our latest actions. Should a positive response from the business not be forthcoming in the next week, we will take further action.”

Trustpilot’s alert on its Symbio review page says: “We strongly oppose any attempts to silence consumers’ freedom of speech. As a public, open review platform, we believe strongly in consumers having the ability to leave feedback – good or bad – about a business at any time, without interference.”

‘It’s outrageous that it replied to people in this way’

Gary Caffell, utilities editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “It’s outrageous that Symbio replied to people in this way, leaving many feeling threatened.

“It’s important that consumers feel free to leave honest reviews based on genuine experiences. A good company will listen to the feedback and use it to improve its services.”

What are Symbio Energy customers saying?

On top of concerns at how it addresses negative feedback on Trustpilot, we’ve seen numerous emails and social media posts complaining that Symbio has continually ignored actual meter readings customers have provided, and instead used inflated estimates.

This in turn has led to requests for high direct debit payments, and has caused problems when customers have tried to switch away or settle final bills with previous suppliers.

Some of the feedback we’ve seen includes:

  • Tim emailed: “I researched the company on Trustpilot and was quite shocked to read their responses to reviews. Most of the reviews are negative, however their responses are quite aggressive, and seem to threaten customers by linking to a BBC News article about someone who was sued for leaving a negative review. They also link to an Apple News article and seem to infer that the negative responses are fake.”
  • Luke emailed: “I switched to Symbio around two months ago, and have had nothing but problems. To start they allegedly provided my previous supplier, Green, with a final meter reading 2,405 units above the reading (supported by a photograph) I provided Symbio as an opening reading.”Green have now billed me over £300 for energy not used… and advised me they cannot alter this until Symbio raise a meter read dispute. I have over the last three weeks emailed a number of times to attempt to instigate this, and also called with no answer (had to leave an answerphone message). I have not had a single reply to any emails or a call back.”

I’m having issues with Symbio Energy – what can I do?

While Symbio Energy is one of the cheapest electricity-only suppliers on typical use, if you’re unhappy you can always switch supplier. You may end up paying a bit more, but it could be worth it if customer service is important to you – see our Cheap Energy Club to do a full market comparison. Just remember to factor any exit fees into your comparison if you’re on a fixed deal. If you do switch, any credit Symbio Energy owes you would still be paid, and if you owe the firm you’ll still need to pay any outstanding balance.

Under Ofgem’s licensing conditions – specifically condition 21B of the electricity supply licence, which all suppliers must follow – if you provide a meter reading, Symbio “must take all reasonable steps to reflect the meter reading in the next bill or statement of account sent to the customer”.

If you don’t feel that is being adhered to, or if you’re generally unhappy with the service you’re getting from Symbio, here’s how to complain:

  • First, contact the supplier. In the first instance, it’s always best to try getting in contact to see if it can sort the issue before you go down the official complaints route. You can contact Symbio on 0333 050 9372 or email it.
  • Then raise an official complaint. If you can’t get an answer or don’t feel that your issue has been dealt with properly by the firm, you can lodge a formal complaint directly with the supplier, or use the free Resolver tool, which can help manage your complaint.
  • Finally, complain to the ombudsman. If you’re unhappy with the resolution, or you don’t hear anything for eight weeks, you can refer your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman, an independent body that handles disputes between consumers and energy firms.

What does Symbio Energy say?

A Symbio Energy spokesperson initially told us it is company policy not to respond to Trustpilot reviews. But after we challenged this, it backtracked and said the links it included in its responses “are to remind parties that if they wish to leave a comment it must be true and stand a judicial test for veracity”.

It claimed it was the victim of “corporate cyberbullying” and that many of the reviews weren’t from genuine customers, which it has reported to Trustpilot.

A Symbio spokesperson said: “The amount of calls we receive where customers seek to leverage bills, discounts and evade liabilities by threatening poor reviews or complaints [sic]. There is a published complaints route for [complaints, such as] the ombudsmans, litigation and [energy regulator] Ofgem. Cyber trolling is not in our opinion a socially acceptable route.”

On its service issues, a spokesperson said: “We have a back office in Goa, India, and due to the pandemic issues in India there have been operational issues resulting from curfews and lockdowns.

“We are undergoing a massive recruitment programme to increase our staff ratios as well. However, I suspect in the absence of a forum to vent displeasure, customers who have outstanding debt and ongoing litigation will seek to complain, as is their right.”

On the estimated billing issues, one of the most common complaints over recent months, Symbio says it follows “an advance billing system wherein we bill you one month in advance based on your estimated annual consumption. Upon receiving your meter reading at the end of each month, we reconcile the bill according to the meter reading submitted.”

What does Ofgem say?

An Ofgem spokesperson said: “We routinely engage with suppliers to secure compliance with their regulatory obligations, but we do not normally comment on the specifics of any such engagement.”

 

Source: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2021/05/Symbio-rapped-over-response-to-negative-reviews/

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Octopus Energy reveals plans to expand into green hydrogen

The Octopus Energy Group is set to expand into the green hydrogen sector, touting the benefits of the technology for “parts of the economy electrification can’t reach”.

It is planning to bring to market a locally distributed ‘green hydrogen as a service’ proposition as part of a new division of the company, Octopus Hydrogen.

Set to launch in Autumn 2021, the green hydrogen is designed to serve sectors such as heavy goods transportation, energy storage, industrial applications and aviation.

The move follows Octopus Energy Group acquiring Octopus Renewables, bringing a portfolio of more than 300 clean energy assets with a combined capacity of 2,800MW across six countries together with the company’s supply business which currently serves two million domestic customers.

Its Kraken platform is now used by 2.2 million customers in the UK alone, with the software used by energy companies including E.On and Good Energy in the UK, and companies like Origin Energy and Hanwha Corporation in Australia.

Together, its large renewables portfolio and Kraken platform means the Octopus Energy Group is “uniquely positioned to drive down costs and help customers drive the transition to a competitive and 100% green economy”, the company told Current± in a statement.

Green hydrogen picks up pace in the UK

Green hydrogen is increasingly drawing focus from both the government and companies looking to invest in a solution for decarbonising challenging sectors. In March, the UK government announced a £171 million Industrial Decarbonisation Fund for green tech projects focused on hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS), which built on the National Infrastructure Strategy announced in November 2020.

Among the nine projects set to be funded by the scheme are Zero Carbon Humber – which will include one of the world’s first at-scale low carbon hydrogen production plants, as well as CO2 and hydrogen pipelines – and the South Wales Industrial Cluster – which will see solar giant Lightsoure bp develop solar powered green hydrogen for direct use in the steel manufacturing on site.

Other energy suppliers are also becoming increasingly interested in the sector, with ScottishPower submitting a planning application for up to 40MW of solar along with up to 50MW of battery storage and a 20MW electrolyser as part of its Green Hydrogen for Scotland project this April. Hydrogen companies are also expanding their operations, with Logan Energy announcing former SSE CEO Ian Marchant is to become chair of the board this week.

In a report produced by the International Renewable Energy Agency in March, it suggested that if global warming is to be curbed, green hydrogen must take over from fossil fuels in a number of sectors. It expects 30% of electricity to be dedicated to green hydrogen and the fuel’s derivatives such as ammonia and methanol by 2050. In order to reach this point, the green hydrogen sector needs to scale up massively, with almost 5,000GW of hydrogen electrolyser capacity needed, up from just 0.3GW today.

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Electricity Retail Market-wide Half-hourly Settlement: Decision and Full Business Case

In August 2018 we set out our expectation that we would need to introduce half-hourly settlement (HHS) on a market-wide basis in order to realise the full benefits of settlement reform. Our Outline Business Case document suggested that – due to the magnitude of the potential net benefits – our decision should centre on determining when and how, rather than whether, market-wide settlement reform should be introduced.

After carrying out a Request for Information (RFI), on 30 April 2020 we published (initially for information) a consultation on issues relating to the introduction of market-wide half-hourly settlement (MHHS) across the electricity retail market. On 17 June 2020 we opened the consultation period. Accompanying the consultation document was a draft impact assessment (IA) on the introduction of MHHS and a paper on the potential consumer impact of MHHS. The consultation closed on 14 September 2020. After the consultation closed we considered the responses carefully and continued to engage with a wide range of stakeholders as we refined our proposals.

We are now publishing our decision to proceed with MHHS based on the Design Working Group’s Target Operating Model (the DWG’s TOM), for import-and export-related Meter Point Administration Numbers (MPANs), with a transition period of 4 years and 6 months completing in October 2025. MHHS will place the right incentives on retailers to develop and offer new tariffs and innovations that encourage and enable more flexible use of energy, such as time of use tariffs, automation, vehicle to grid solutions and battery storage. We estimate that our chosen option for MHHS will deliver net benefits to GB energy consumers in the range of £1,559m-£4,509m over the period 2021-2045. We have published the following:

  • our Decision Document, which sets out all the decisions that we have taken and the reasons for them,
  • our Full Business Case (FBC), which includes an assessment of the economic case for implementing MHHS and provides updates on how MHHS will be implemented,
  • our Final Impact Assessment (IA), which sets out our analysis of the costs and benefits of MHHS, and
  • a short addendum to our Data Protection Impact Assessment, to reflect the new data access policy decisions set out in the Decision Document.

We would like to thank all stakeholders for your input so far. We look forward to your continued engagement during the implementation phase of settlement reform.

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Ecotricity turnover exceeds £222 million thanks to ‘deep green’ business customers

It passed by as quietly as an electric car — so much so we almost missed it — and neither did green energy pioneer Ecotricity make a noise about its ongoing growth during its last financial year either.

Surprising, possibly, given that the Stroud-headquartered green energy pioneer and owner of the UK’s first electric car charging network is not known to be shy of the spotlight.

Ecotricity’s turnover grew by 15 per cent to £222.3 million, with its annual report stating this was due in no small part to its customer retention but also a growth in business customers.

‘2020 has been a year of significant growth in turnover for the renewable energy company. During 2020 turnover grew by 15 per cent to £222,312,555 (2019: £193,339,518),’ said Asif Rehmanwala, Ecotricity’s chief executive officer and the man who signed its annual report for the year ending 30 April 2020.

All of which marked another consecutive year of turnover growth for the business, which this year is also a sponsor of the SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards – lending its weight to the Green Business of the Year category.

‘In aggregate business and domestic numbers remained steady year-on-year (2019: grew 1.4 per cent). Maintaining customer numbers has been a success in an extremely price competitive market.

‘This has been achieved by the supply business remaining true to its values as a ‘deep green’ energy supplier rather than competing on price.’

In fact, business customer supplies (gas and electric combined) grew year on year by 31 per cent to 868 GWh.

‘This growth was primarily due to increased sales focus on higher consumption business customers.

‘Business customer numbers grew by 48 per cent (2019: 19 per cent increase) in the year.’

The number of domestic customers remained static.

Gross profits decreased by 19.7 per cent to £28.8 million (2019: £35.9m).

The Five Valleys’ firm put this down to the change in customer mix and an ‘increase in costs associated with ensuring that the company’s customers are provided with deep green energy’.

Pre-tax losses were £6.6m, although it declared its financial position ‘remains strong’ with net assets at £14.8m and that 2020 showed a ‘good underlying trading performance’.

‘Despite a drop in gross and net profits margins, it has built a good platform against which to pursue further cost control, standing the company in a strong position for the year to come.’

The report also looked beyond the period to the end of April last year into the first half of the current financial year, stating its priority had been the safety and welfare of its staff and customers.

Despite which, ‘the company’s operating business has deteriorated only ‘slightly’ due to the covid-19 pandemic.

 

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National Grid launches smart lightbulb that glows green when powered by renewable energy

The Green Light Signal, which costs around £25, emits a green light when the carbon intensity of the UK’s grid is very low, such as on windy or sunny days

National Grid has launched a smart lightbulb that glows green when the electricity grid is being powered by renewable energy, as part of a new campaign to highlight the UK’s transition to low-carbon power.

The Green Light Signal, which costs around £25, emits a green light when the carbon intensity of the UK’s grid is very low, such as on windy or sunny days when high levels of renewable power are generated.

People can use the green light as a “signal” to use power around the home, National Grid’s chief executive John Pettigrew told.

“It’s an opportunity for people to be able to learn to make simple changes in terms of how they behave, and to feel that they are participating in the energy transition,” he said.

“People aren’t going to change when they eat – but they might change when they are going to use the dishwasher, they might change when they use the washing machine or the tumble dryer. So these are small adjustments to the ways that we all behave which can contribute.”

Research by National Grid suggests many people in the UK feel a sense of “hopelessness” about climate change, according to Pettigrew. A poll of just over 2,000 UK adults revealed 42 per cent of people believing that Britain only gets up to 10 per cent of its electricity supplied by zero and low carbon energy sources – the true figure is 55 per cent.

Just over 50 per cent of Brits said they would feel more hopeful about climate change if they understood the steps Britain is taking to cut its emissions.

“What the research shows is that people want to connect with the energy transition, they want to connect with net zero, and they want to be involved,” said Mr Pettigrew. “So what we’re trying to do as an energy company is to give them the opportunity to be involved.”

The bulb will glow green when the carbon intensity of the electricity supplied in the local area is low. It uses a forecasting tool built by National Grid, WWF, University of Oxford, and the European Defence Fund. The bulb is likely to green around 50 per cent of the time based on current levels of renewable power.