It feels as if the energy sector has been dominated by political rhetoric around prices for an age. Too often it’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction so it’s no surprise that in this context, our event about a well-functioning retail market as part of the Energy UK Breakfast Briefing series was packed out with people wanting to know more.
Energy UK events are where people come to find out what’s really going on in energy.
The Breakfast Briefing on making the market work for consumers began with a presentation from Ofgem’s Rachel Fletcher who highlighted that ccompetition has never been higher and switching continues to increase. A key consideration for Ofgem was ensuring that the implementation of the Competition Markets Authority’s remedies has the necessary time and space to boost competition further.
Citizens Advice’s Victoria MacGregor said that more needed to be done to ensure that consumers who might be in vulnerable circumstances were protected from price increases and/or an inability to engage. Caroline Waddams of the University of East Anglia pointed out that competition will always provide diverse outcomes for consumers and that Government has a role to protect those who struggle to benefit from the market.
Energy UK’s Director of Retail Audrey Gallacher emphasised that industry is committed to driving customer engagement even further and will continue to work to ensure the market benefits consumers. Progress is already happening on the CMA remedies including steps to engage loyal customers.
One thing all panelists agreed on was that Government intervention in the market now risked unintended consequences – and could actually end up undermining the improvement we are seeing to both competition and consumer engagement. And everything we know about the future of energy suggests we will need to do all we can to boost engagement.
Whatever Theresa May’s Government decides to do in relation to energy it has to be understood that this is a sector with a range of competing objectives: keeping prices low for consumers, decarbonising the British economy, keeping a secure and safe supply of energy, contributing jobs and investment across all the regions and nations of the United Kingdom. Competition is the best way to deliver these competing objectives and intervention in one area could have far-reaching consequences for another.
The debate will go on and Energy UK will continue to be at the forefront of it.