SOCIAL ENTERPRISE NEWS
Power to the People
A version of this article appeared in The Scotsman newspaper on Thursday 15 March 2018: www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/duncan-thorp-fed-up-with-your-energy-supplier-alternative-firms-doing-social-good-are-available-1-4706040
Ethical energy companies are on the rise. Consumers are increasingly turning to the positive alternatives in the face of poor customer service and expensive energy tariffs from the big six suppliers.
A recent Which? customer satisfaction survey ranked the big six at the bottom of the league table. Their dominance seems to be in long-term decline, with a business model that places shareholder profits before customers.
Our Power is one of a handful of ethical, co-operative and social enterprise alternatives in the UK energy market, a market that also includes Good Energy, Ecotricity and Green Star Energy. In Scotland we have The People’s Energy company too, that prioritises green energy and profit sharing with customers.
A Scottish company, Our Power was established in 2016. It’s owned by social housing providers, community organisations and local authorities. Their tariffs are available to every household in Scotland.
Founding Chief Executive, Dawn Muspratt, says: “Over the past two years Our Power has presented a sustainable alternative to traditional energy providers in the Scottish market, offering fairer tariffs for everyone and helping people out of fuel poverty. It’s our job to get the lowest price and pass that on to all our customers.
“Fuel poverty is a real issue for around four million households in the UK. With our new UK-wide 100% green energy +Impact tariff we aim to challenge the status quo. For every home that switches to the new tariff, Our Power can help to bring energy costs down for families living in, or at risk of, fuel poverty. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
One of the most established alternatives is Co-op Energy, part of The Midcounties Co-operative, the largest independent co-op in the UK. David Bird, CEO of Co-op Energy says: “When Co-op Energy launched in 2010, it was because we wanted to create something different to the rest of the energy market, underpinned by a core set of values.
“We’re proud to be owned by our members, and to be part of the largest independent co-operative in the UK. It gives us a mandate to be different. We support more than 40 community-run renewable energy projects and we’re committed to supporting more. We distributed more than £1.6m and 36,000 volunteer hours to community causes last year. As an energy provider with a difference we feel we’ve got an important role to play in the evolution of the sector in the years ahead.”
In addition to ethical and social enterprise energy companies we have local communities across Scotland generating their own renewable energy, ensuring that profits directly benefit local areas.
Nicholas Gubbins of Community Energy Scotland says: “Local community groups lead the way in tackling energy challenges, despite the cuts in government funding. It’s these projects that bring the greatest benefits to communities. Some of the community-owned projects in the Outer Hebrides, for example, demonstrate huge transformational impact. We’ve also been working with community groups to develop novel ways for communities to benefit from renewable energy.”
Alongside the announcement from The Scottish Government of a publicly owned energy company, the choice of innovative, alternative suppliers is widening. It’s easy for consumers to make the switch and put people and planet first, using websites like uswitch or Citizens Advice. Make the switch today, improve lives in your local community and help drive forward a greener, fairer Scotland.
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