London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — August 19, 2009 – Britain’s “big six” energy suppliers spent £157 million on voluntary social programs in 2008-09, a nearly three-fold increase compared with 2007-08 (£57 million), the regulator Ofgem has reported.
Most was spent on social and other discounted tariffs for vulnerable and fuel poor customers. Suppliers have exceeded their spending target for 2008-09 by £59 million.
The number of customer accounts on social tariffs grew to one million by March 2009 from 800,000 in October 2008.
The government announced in the 2008 Budget a three-year commitment given by energy suppliers to increase their spending on social tariffs and other social programs. Ofgem’s report on the first year of the suppliers’ commitment shows that each supplier met its target for 2008-09 and jointly they exceeded the target of £151 million set for the end of the period in 2010-11.
Maxine Frerk, Ofgem’s director of governance, consumer and social affairs, said: “This is a very encouraging outcome for the first year of the commitment, especially in the current tough economic climate. We are particularly pleased to see the increase in the number of customers benefitting and encourage suppliers to continue to focus on how best to help their vulnerable customers who are struggling to pay their bills.”
Other key points from Ofgem’s report are that vulnerable customers on social tariffs received £130 million worth of discounts in 2008-09, and all suppliers (with the exception of E.ON) now have a social tariff that meets Ofgem’s new stricter requirements set in July 2008.
In addition to social and discounted tariffs other initiatives offered by suppliers have included rebates, trust funds to provide direct assistance to customers in debt, and debt write-off, among others.
Britain’s top six energy suppliers are British Gas, EDF Energy (EDF), E.ON (formerly Powergen), npower, ScottishPower, and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).