MP urges Borderers to highlight issues with off-grid energy

Borderers are being encouraged to take part in a survey to highlight any issues in the off-grid energy market.

Borders MP Michael Moore said: “For people in the Borders who depend on off-grid energy, I know there has been huge concern over the lack of competition in the market, steep price rises and the inconsistent supply during the winter months.

“I have passed on these concerns to the Minister responsible for off-grid energy, Charles Hendry, but he is also encouraging MPs to collect evidence on the specific issues people are facing.

“I am therefore asking Borderers who have experienced problems with their supply of heating oil or LPG to contact my office so we can send you a survey to complete.

“We will then collate the information and send it to the Minister who will use it to assist in the work he is doing on the off-grid energy market.”

An Office of Fair Trading investigation last year revealed that most complaints were about the high prices of heating oil.

They concluded: “On the whole competition works well, with consumers offered a good choice of suppliers, and that the off-grid sector does not need price regulation.

“However the OFT does have concerns that some heating oil and possibly some other off-grid fuel suppliers may not be treating their customers fairly and is currently examining practices further.

“During the market study, the OFT took action against certain heating oil companies and price comparison websites to improve website transparency and prevent consumers being misled when searching online for heating oil supplies. Following this action, transparency has improved further for households buying heating oil, as some traders have also changed their practices so that people are better informed about which company owns heating oil brands.

Clive Maxwell, OFT executive director, said: “We looked at both competition and consumer issues as part of this comprehensive study, and whilst there seems to be a good choice of suppliers across most of the country, we have real concerns about whether consumer protection law is being complied with in all cases.”

There are four million households in the UK who are not connected to the mains gas grid and the OFT suggest that insulation and/or the replacement of old and inefficient boilers, may be of greater medium and short term benefit to these customers.

For example, the Energy Saving Trust (EST) estimates that consumers could save up to a quarter on their annual heating bills by replacing their boiler and heating controls. Which? estimates that

roof and wall insulation could save between £150 and £450 a year and adding a modern boiler and heating controls could save a further £200 a year. This compares to the SPA consumer research findings where shopping around for 500 litres of heating oil only found average price differences up to £26.