A year or so ago, we decided to switch energy supplier away from British Gas. We weren't alone in doing it, at the same time many people got fed up with the offers from big energy suppliers and switched to smaller outfits to get better deals. At this time we decided to switch to Good Energy, partly because of their links with the National Trust (never a bad thing) and partly because I reasoned that with Good Energy we could play our part in investing in renewables, and partly because over the long haul I tend to think that renewables will end up being comparably cheaper than fossil fuels. The switch from one to another was seamless, and we've been happy enough with their service.
Yesterday we received a letter from them telling us that they were cutting their unit Electricity price by 2.1% - 'Huzzah!' I thought - look who was right all along, yeah? No. So it turns out that whilst cutting their Electricity and Gas prices, they're increasing their daily Standing Charge from 18.86p per day, to 23.47p. Now, for most people, bills will go down regardless. The cut in the other two prices will mean that they easily save more than they get charged in the change in Standing Charge.
What this means though, is that people in our position are actually penalised. As the letter says, 'The result is that we are lowering our unit electricity prices by 2.1%. However, as you are a low user of electricity, and because our standing charges need to go up, you will see from the enclosed Price Change Notification, that as a result, your overall bill will rise.'
If I'm honest, I'm a bit baffled. We're a low use of electricity for exactly the same reason that we decided to go with Good Energy. We're careful with our electricity usage. We wash clothes later in the evening, we switch lights off, we use timers. It isn't by accident that we're a low user of electricity - in a world with very finite resources, I don't think we can afford not to be low users of electricity.
The change in payments isn't really what I'm moaning about here. We're in a lucky enough position that we can meet our bill payments, and more than this, because Good Energy didn't ask for a meter reading last year, we're currently in credit on our account. The people I feel for are those who are low users of electricity for other reasons. Logically, those who will use less energy are those living in smaller homes or living alone - many of these people will be elderly. I don't see why those people should be penalised.
Good Energy, according to their website, are committed to building a green energy future. To me, a key part of that green energy future has to be convincing people to live efficiently and leave as little a mark on the planet as possible. Quite why, in a year when they're cutting unit prices, Good Energy believes they should penalise exactly those customers who are making that effort is beyond me.
As I said, it isn't about me. It's an issue of principles. We'll only tackle the coming energy crisis if we're all a part of the solution. It seems that perhaps inadvertently, Good Energy are moving in the opposite direction.