Call for mandatory social tariffs in UK

energywatchLondon, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — April 3, 2007 – UK gas and electricity consumer watchdog energywatch has issued a call to government for mandatory social electricity tariffs for vulnerable consumers.

In a statement released last week the body said that new government legislation requiring energy companies to provide affordable energy through discounted ‘social’ tariffs should form part of the upcoming Energy White Paper.

More than 3 million households in the UK are believed to be in fuel poverty, up by more than one million since 2003 following sharp increases in energy prices, which have increased consumer bills by 94% for gas and 60% for electricity and seen the average annual energy bill exceeding £1,000 (almost US$2,000) for the first time.

“Government must take the lead and require fair pricing for the poorest consumers. With no real incentive for companies to act voluntarily and with no blueprint for how social tariffs should work it is imperative that government uses its Energy White Paper to bring affordable energy and clarity for Britain’s most vulnerable households,” said Adam Scorer, energywatch Director of Campaigns.

The call follows a consultation by energywatch on the role that social tariffs can play in helping to eliminate fuel poverty. While the full report has yet to be released, the body says that one of the key recommendations is that an energy assistance package should be available, which addresses all three fuel poverty drivers, i.e. price, income and energy efficiency.

Besides making it mandatory for all energy suppliers to offer their cheapest tariffs to vulnerable groups, it is recommended that government should determine eligibility for the energy assistance package, based on a detailed evaluation to identify those groups of consumers most susceptible to fuel poverty is recommended.

It is also recommended that in order to access discounted social tariffs, eligible consumers should accept an independent home energy efficiency audit to ensure that heating and energy efficiency requirements are addressed.

energywatch suggests that the regulator, Ofgem, should be tasked with monitoring progress against targets for social tariffs and should report its findings accordingly.

The full report on social tariffs is expected to be published later this month.