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Council-backed energy firm working with outsourced telesales centres in South Africa

A COUNCIL-BACKED energy company has confirmed it works with six outsourced telesales contact centres in South Africa that have 90 staff allocated to its campaigns.

But Scottish firm Together Energy says it only has one of its own members of staff based in South Africa, with the other 129 located in Clydebank.

Warrington Borough Council is putting £18 million into the company, as well as providing a £4 million loan to it.

Together Energy finished bottom of the Which? energy provider table and has received many complaints from users.

It said it is looking to recruit around 25 members of staff in Warrington and that it recently attended a careers fair in the town to help achieve this aim.

But concerns have been raised from customers following adverts online for vacancies in a South Africa call centre for work on a Together Energy campaign.

However, the issue has sparked a response from the company.

A spokesman said: “We do not have any sites in South Africa.

“We had a customer service function in South Africa to help us with the Supplier of Last Resort volumes which has now been closed and the function moved back to Clydebank.

“We work with six outsourced telesales contact centres in South Africa who have around 90 staff allocated to campaigns for Together Energy including a small sales verification team.

“These companies also sell for many other UK energy suppliers including most of the ‘big six’ energy companies.

“The adverts are for these companies trying to recruit people to work on our campaign.

“They are not our adverts or our employees.

“Our one full-time employee in South Africa manages these relationships and the necessary compliance for these centres.”

The firm says it is not directly recruiting for any field sales agents in Clydebank or any telesales agents in South Africa.

There was also an advertisement online for a national fields associate role in Clydebank to sell Together Energy products.

The spokesman added: “We also work in the UK with two outsourced field sales companies, who sell our tariffs and again recruit for people to sell Together Energy products.

“They are not employed by us and the job referred to is for one of these companies not us.”

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Eon lost HALF A MILLION customers in 2019 as households continue to switch away from the Big Six energy suppliers

Eon lost 500,000 customers in Britain last year with its profits also taking a bashing thanks to the energy price cap, its results revealed today.

The Big Six supplier, which is German-owned, is likely to have lost customers as a result of more households switching providers than ever before – with many moving away from the largest suppliers. 

The price cap will also have had an effect as suppliers are only allowed to charge a maximum of £1,162 for standard variable tariff customers.

Despite losing customers, Eon said its total earnings before tax and interest increased to £2.9billion in 2019, and it expects earnings to increase again in 2020.

However, it admitted it hadn’t factored in the current downturn in the economy amid coronavirus fears, adding that it has seen customers across Europe consuming less energy as a result of the pandemic. 

Johannes Teyssen, Eon chief executive, said: ‘Industrial and commercial customers are consuming noticeably less energy. 

‘This will have a temporary impact on our network and sales businesses. There may be delays in our ability to deliver energy infrastructure projects.

He added: ‘Energy utilities have a special significance for critical infrastructure in this crisis and thus a special responsibility. 

‘We will do everything in our power to ensure supply security, even in this situation.’

It said the energy sector ‘won’t be as hard hit by other industries’ but will still feel an impact from the pandemic. 

During the coronavirus outbreak, Eon confirmed that it will not disconnect financially vulnerable customers from its network to ensure continued supply. 

It added that its core business saw operating arms post ‘solid earnings’ last year, although customer solutions saw earnings slip by £90.9million due to price caps and the fall in UK accounts. 

Victoria Arrington at Energy Helpline said: ‘The Big Six has been losing customers for some time – so Eon’s loss of 500,000 UK accounts in 2019 is no big surprise. 

‘Established suppliers are facing intense battles in an ever-changing industry for customer loyalty.

‘The marketplace is becoming more and more competitive. Customers are switching at record rates – and it’s unsurprising, since there are so many bargain tariffs appearing all the time. 

‘That said, Eon clearly recognises that customers crave savings, with their best tariff deal is £318 cheaper than their default tariff.

‘With so many cheap tariffs available, it’s clear that complacency can be costly. 

‘Customers who switch supplier could save up to £378 a year on energy, with the average customer saving £280 annually – so it pays to shop around.

‘Eon has made some intriguing moves recently – from putting all of their customers on to renewable energy, to taking on the customer base of npower. 

‘It will continue to be interesting to see what new developments they bring to the industry.’ 

During the coronavirus outbreak, the Government and energy suppliers have teamed up to put emergency measures in place.

This includes ensuring that prepayment and pay as you go customers who cannot leave home can speak to their provider about staying supplied, steps that should benefit over four million households. 

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SSE intends to pay dividend despite COVID-19 disruption

Energy giant SSE has confirmed it remains “confident” about its long-term performance in spite of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ahead of the publication of its full year results, the firm stated that its board intends to recommend a full-year dividend of 80 pence per share for 2019/20, as the pandemic has not yet had a “material impact” on the group’s results.

However, SSE has stressed that the board may reconsider the timing of the dividend payment as the effects of the coronavirus become more apparent.

Gregor Alexander, finance director at SSE, commented: “In common with everyone else, our overriding priority is supporting efforts to contain and delay the spread of Covid-19 – helping communities, customers and colleagues through this exceptionally difficult time.

“Covid-19 is having an exceptional human, social and economic impact and dealing with that must be our overriding priority.

“Nevertheless, as a clean infrastructure company with first class assets and practical solutions to the critical problem of climate change and achievement of net zero emissions, we remain confident about the long-term opportunities for SSE.”

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COVID-19 Update

Good Evening,

I am sure you are aware there is currently a heightened awareness of the risks associated with the Coronavirus.


At this moment we are able to maintain full-service continuity, however, should this be affected we are taking actions to ensure we can maintain this throughout any disruptions to business COVID-19 may entail. We do not foresee any lack of ability to continue supplying energy contracts to both suppliers and our customers and would like to reassure you that we have a detailed business continuity plan in place, which includes measures to prepare for disruption to our usual business activity.


Within our office procedures have been actioned to protect and control the possible spread of the virus within our offices. In the event that a member of staff does need to take leave, we will believe we will be able to maintain our steadfast business service whilst protecting all of our employees as necessary.


So, what have we done to protect ourselves from the impact of Covid-19?
• Provided hand sanitiser and disinfectant spray per employee
• postponed any meetings or business gatherings that have been arranged
• Expressed the need for Restricted travel outside of work
• Implemented social rules within the office block
• Currently not allowing any visitors to enter the office
• Generously separated our employee’s workspace
• Our offices are deep cleaned twice daily.
• The opportunity for employees to work from home will be available within the next few days.


We are following and will continue to follow advice and protocols issue by the government, taking the health and safety of our clients and employees very seriously, working extremely hard to minimise disruption to business. We appreciate your understanding during this challenging time.
Should you have any questions we will be happy to hear from you. You can reply to this email or speak to a member of our lovely team by calling 0161 241 9335.

Yours sincerely,

Jenny Allen
Director of Business Utilities UK

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Latest quarterly transparency report on NI’s retail energy market published

The Quarterly Transparency Report (QTR) for Q4 2019 is the latest of a series of Utility Regulator reports that provide a range of information about the retail energy market in Northern Ireland.

The QTR presents data collected by the UR as part of the Retail Energy Market Monitoring (REMM) framework. REMM requires network companies and suppliers to submit data on a range of indicators to enhance UR transparency around market behaviours and regulatory compliance.  We use the information outlined in the report to review the progress and impact of supply competition; build knowledge for regulatory decisions; comply with EU Third Package mandatory requirements on market monitoring; allow other interested stakeholders to understand more readily the activity within our energy markets; and to help promote the interests of consumers.

QTR Q4 2019

 The key developments during quarter 4 are as follows:

  • Market activity in the electricity domestic and I&C sectors continues to illustrate a gradual change in the market dynamics. Power NI (the incumbent price controlled electricity supplier) retain their dominant position with 55.7% of connections in the domestic market with continued growth of the competing suppliers.
  • Electricity switching activity in Q4 2019 has increased from the previous quarter. Domestic customers continue to engage in the electricity market with over 37,000 switches completed during Q4 2019, compared to 25,000 the previous quarter. There was notable increase in Budget Energy’s connections for this quarter (>11,000). I&C electricity switching also increased to a switching rate of 5.0% (from 1.6% in the previous quarter), with over 3,700 switches completed. 
  • In the gas sector, I&C switching activity decreased in Greater Belfast with the I&C switching rate decreasing from 1.0% in Q3 2019 to 0.8% in Q4 2019. However, the I&C switching rate for Ten Towns increased from 0.9% to 1.3% for the same period.
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Oil giants come together for Teeside net-zero cluster

A major consortium of companies including BP and Shell will help Teeside become the ‘UK’s first’ net-zero cluster.

Announced today (February 28) in Middlesborough, the group will work to accelerate the the Net Zero Teesside project, previously known as the Clean Gas Project.

BP, Eni, Equinor, Shell and Total are the companies involved, bringing experience of carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology. They say they are committed to working closely with the UK government and local stakeholders, including the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.

The project aims to decarbonise local industry by building a transportation and storage system to gather industrial CO2, compress it and store it safely in a reservoir under the North Sea. They believe the transportation and storage infrastructure will encourage new investment in the region from industries that wish to store or use CO2.

In addition, a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facility with carbon capture technology will provide low carbon power as a complement to renewable energy sources and underpin the investment in the infrastructure.

They believe the project, with government support, could be up and running within five years.

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, said: ‘Net Zero Teesside represents the next step in our ambitions for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to become a pioneer in clean energy, driving almost half a billion pounds into the regional economy and boosting the wider UK by £3.2bn.

‘This world-leading industrial-scale decarbonisation project will safeguard and create 5,500 good quality, well-paid jobs for local people. It will act as a beacon for new technologies and further investment as other companies are attracted to our area, while helping the UK achieve its clean energy potential.’

Net Zero Teesside would be the first major development to be based on the South Tees Development Corporation site. The launch event today comes just days after the Tees Valley Mayor struck a landmark deal to secure the land at the former SSI steelworks site and bring it back into public ownership, ready for future redevelopment.

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UK must create 120,000 green energy jobs by 2030 to meet targets

The UK must recruit more than 100,000 people to fill green energy roles within a decade if the government hopes to meet its binding climate targets, National Grid has warned.

A report by the company found that Britain needs to fill 120,000 roles in the green energy industry by 2030 to help develop projects that can cut greenhouse gas emissions to near zero. That number is likely to reach 400,000 by 2050, when the government expects to have developed a clean energy system based on renewable electricity, green heating systems and electric vehicles.

The growing need for new recruits to power the UK’s climate targets is expected to emerge as Britain faces a green energy jobs crunch over the next 10 years.

The report warned that a fifth of employees in the energy sector are due to retire by 2030. The UK’s energy industry faces stiff competition from other sectors and has a narrow pipeline of young people pursuing Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) qualifications to draw from, it said.

Nicola Shaw, the executive director of National Grid, said: “The time is now for the sector to rise to the challenge and overcome the longstanding issues we face in recruiting a diverse workforce with the right skills to deliver on the UK’s ambitions.”

The UK’s plan to cut emissions to virtually zero, and offset unavoidable pollution through carbon capture schemes, will require major investments in offshore wind, clean heating schemes, electric vehicles and carbon-capture technology.

The energy industry is expected to use its role in tackling the global climate crisis to encourage young graduates into the industry.

Research carried out by YouGov has found that people of all ages, from all regions across the UK, are “looking for a job with environmental purpose”. More than eight in 10 women and seven in 10 men have said they are keen to play their part in tackling climate change. Over half of adults are specifically looking to work for an organisation that is helping the UK to achieve its climate goals.

The rising need for green energy jobs could bring opportunities for skilled tradespeople, engineers and other specialists “across every region of the country”, the report said.

A quarter of the green jobs required will need to be based in the north of the country, according to National Grid. It estimated that more than 21,000 new recruits will be needed to complete energy projects, including an offshore wind farm off the coast of Blyth and the new subsea power cable to Norway from the north-east of England.

Meanwhile, the development of carbon capture and storage in the Yorkshire and Humber region is expected to support 17,000 new jobs. Another 28,000 roles will be needed to work on more offshore wind farms off the east of England.

In Scotland, green energy workers will be needed to fill more than 48,000 jobs by 2050, with a further 25,000 roles expected in Wales.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the minister of state for business, energy and clean growth, said: “Tackling climate change is not only saving the planet, but is significantly boosting our economy. As we work to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2050, the UK has the potential to support 2m green-collar jobs across our world-class renewables sector, among other industries.”

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Vattenfall wins Midlothian Council energy partnership

Midlothian Council, which has declared a Climate Emergency, has appointed Vattenfall as the preferred bidder for its energy partnership

The partnership between Midlothian and Vattenfall will focus on delivering a wide range of energy projects across the area.

This first project is expected to save over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 1,200 petrol/diesel cars off the road. It will be a fourth-generation, innovative low carbon district heating network to the new Shawfair town in the north of the council area on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

The network will benefit from heat supplied by FCC Environment, which operates the councils’ (Edinburgh and Midlothian) state of the art energy from waste facility (EfW) near Millerhill. The EfW is fuelled by residual waste collected by the local councils of Midlothian, Edinburgh and East Lothian.

In addition to setting up a long term ESCo, Midlothian Council aims to sign a 40-year agreement with the ESCo to supply heat to the new public buildings to be built at the new Shawfair town.

The new company will negotiate final contracts with its main initial partners, FCC Environment and Shawfair LLP. FCC will supply the low carbon heat and Shawfair LLP will facilitate the connections to new domestic and commercial developments in the town.

The details of agreements are now being worked up with a view to signing the contract by the middle of this year.

A £20m energy project

This first £20m project will benefit from financial support of up to £7.3m from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Project, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The council also benefits from a close working relationship on the project from Scottish Futures Trust.

Future projects to be undertaken by the ESCo will include the potential expansion of the district heating network into areas of East Lothian and Edinburgh, creating a network similar in scale to those delivered in major cities throughout Europe, such as Amsterdam.

The network will bring the latest in heat network technology to Scotland, built as a low-temperature network.

Low-temperature heat networks bring with them many benefits, including lower costs, maintenance, and an ability to adapt to take heat from many sources of waste heat, e.g. sewage works and data centres.

Working with the Coal Authority, the potential for utilising the former Monktonhall Colliery for heat storage and supply will also be investigated.

Projects valued over £100m

Beyond district heating projects the ESCo may be asked to consider Solar PV, Electric Vehicle charging and direct wire electricity supplies to commercial properties. Over the lifetime of the ESCo projects to the total value of over £100m are anticipated.

Midlothian Council’s cabinet member for economic development, Councillor Russell Imrie said: “We’re very excited to be working with Vattenfall to set up an energy services company for innovative new projects benefitting local residents and businesses in the area and setting us well on our way to a carbon-neutral future.”

A sustainable new town

Tuomo Hattaka, senior vice president of Vattenfall Heat said: “We’re delighted to have been selected by Midlothian Council for this long term energy partnership that puts low carbon, fossil-free living front and centre of its ambition.

“Any organisation or company serious about reaching net-zero has low carbon heating at the top of its to-do list, and this energy partnership is no different.”

Mike Reynolds, managing director of Vattenfall Heat UK adds: “Midlothian has an abundance of local, low carbon heat potential which means that we can begin the partnership’s work with the installation of a state-of-the-art heat network that will deliver affordable, low carbon heating to local homes at the Shawfair development.”

Paul Taylor, group chief executive of FCC Environment said: “This news is a hugely positive step enabling, as it will, the use of the heat that the combustion process creates improving yet further the efficiency of the plant.

“Feeding into the planned district heating network on the plant’s doorstep will allow, not just us at FCC Environment, but all parties involved to realise a vision of the future place for Energy from Waste facilities such as Millerhill across the UK.”

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Ofgem approves UKPN to access smart meter data

UK Power Networks has become the second Distribution Network Operator to secure Ofgem approval to access smart meter data for households and small businesses in its patch, after the regulator approved its data security plan.

The DNO will now be able to access the devices’ aggregated half-hourly data via Smart DCC, the Capita-owned business that has the licence to operate the smart meter system, giving it a clearer view of loads on the low voltage networks.

Western Power Distribution was also approved by Ofgem to access smart meter data, in July 2018.  

The DNO submitted its data privacy plan to Ofgem in December 2019, which included “assurances that Consumption Data will not be used for marketing purposes or sold to third parties for commercial or marketing purposes”.

Ofgem granted its approval on 11 February.

Having this understanding will help the company effectively adapt to new demands on the network and subsequently support Great Britain’s transition to a low carbon society

Spokeperson, UK Power Networks

Insight into this data is becoming more important as for DNOs as networks adapt to household solar generation, electric vehicle charging, and battery storage.

In an email to Network, the DNO said that the consumption data would offer better visibility of usage patterns on its low voltage network, helping it to plan reinforcement and to understand how load patterns would be affected by electric vehicles and other low carbon technologies.

A spokesperson said: “Having this understanding will help the company effectively adapt to new demands on the network and subsequently support Great Britain’s transition to a low carbon society.”

The data can improve visibility of the demands on substations, feeders and sections of feeders, according to the data security plan submitted to Ofgem.

Each household smart meter transmits consumption data to servers controlled and operated by Smart DCC. UK Power Networks will be able to access the data via the latter’s infrastructure, which interfaces with the DNO’s own secure IT systems.

Smart DCC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Capita, operates under a licence granted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is also regulated by Ofgem.

According to the data privacy plan submitted to Ofgem, UK Power Networks will develop a process through Smart DCC to collect the information on a monthly basis.

Collecting at monthly intervals will means that IT systems at the DNO and at Smart DCC are not overloaded, as the data requests can be data intensive.

The decision was made to collect data monthly as a longer or shorter period would provide no additional benefits to UK Power Network’s team, for instance system design and planning engineers using the data for network reinforcement analysis or new connections.

UK Power Networks will be able to access aggregated monthly half-hourly consumption load profiles for each substation, feeder and section of feeder.

Under the requirements of its licence, UK Power Networks will need to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the data ceases to be “capable of being associated with a domestic customer at relevant premises”.

As well as using the data for its own analysis, UK Power Networks has said that it might make aggregated and anonymised consumption data available to independent connection providers and independent DNOs (IDNO)s where there is a framework agreement.

It might also share aggregated and anonymised data with consultants and universities working on its behalf, for example to support a research project.

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Government launches new business support campaign

The new business support campaign is designed to help businesses in England find out about the full range of available support.

The government has today (17 February 2020) launched a new business support campaign, designed to help businesses to find the right support as part of our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to work and grow a business.

As part of the campaign, government support will be advertised across a range of media, from billboards and newspapers to radio and social media.

From today, all of the government’s business support schemes will be accessible via the new Business Support site, making it easier for businesses in England to find out about the full range of support available to them. (Business support in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is provided by the devolved administrations so this site covers business in England only.)

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

We want to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business. As part of delivering this ambition we are putting all of government’s business support together in one place to ensure more businesses can unleash their potential.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said:

We want British exporters to make the most of our status as an independent trading nation, now that we have left the EU. This government will provide the tools and support to ensure these businesses are ready to trade.

How we can help your business

Schemes are divided into 4 areas.

Finance and business planning

Funding for new businesses and support to help existing business grow, dealing with late payments, and equity and debt finance .

Leadership and talent

Mentoring schemes, help with recruiting, developing leadership skills or joining a network.

Innovation and technology

Funding for innovation, adoption of new technology, intellectual property and finding partners for innovation.

Exporting

Support for doing business internationally and expanding online.

More information

The website also provides access to a Business Support Helpline and a LiveChat function. More information about specific schemes in these areas can be found on the website.