The nation’s energy suppliers have been urged to own up to their past mistakes in order to gain the trust of the public and assure consumers that their energy bills will be fully transparent going forward.
According to Angela Knight from Energy UK, the trade association for the energy industry, the only way that energy companies can rebuild trust among the public is to admit when they have been wrong in the past and make assurances that lessons have been learned.
Though this is unlikely to be an immediate remedy, and may not assure people who have recently been subjected to price hikes while reading about increases in energy companies’ profits, Ms Knight says it is the first step on the way to overhauling the negative public perception of suppliers.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Ms Knight said people need to realise that increasing energy bills are due to a number of factors, even if this does not detract from the fact that the average consumer will be paying more than £1,400 for their gas and electricity by the end of the year.
Your bill is composed of a lot of things, all of which have been rising,” she explained, noting that the cost of distributing energy to people’s homes and the VAT applied all has a significant impact on the prices charged.
“Of course, the main energy firms are big and it is not the greatest time to be a large company, but large companies are necessary for investment and we have to get that message across,” she added.
Ms Knight was referring to the Big Six energy suppliers – British Gas, E.ON, EDF, npower, Scottishpower and SSE – each of which has come under fire recently for announcing profits as more and more consumers fall into fuel poverty.
The perceived lack of tax paid by major energy suppliers has also been a target for critics recently, but Ms Knight pointed out that it is important for major companies to post profits.
While some qualify for tax breaks due to their contribution to the economy, those that do pay tax comprise a significant proportion of the UK’s total corporation tax receipts – money which is then ploughed back into the country.
“We have to say that profit is a good thing because that provides the jobs and the investment which creates more jobs. The energy sector has created a lot of jobs in recent years and there will be more to come with the growth of windpower etc,” Ms Knight says.
“There is a real trust issue here and the energy companies themselves will tell you the same thing. We need to do as much as we can to try to build that trust especially as energy policy moves more and more to the centre of the economic stage.”
Rebuilding this trust may be as much about energy companies and the industry as a whole publicising the contribution they make to the economy as it will be taking action to curb rising energy bills.
Clarity is key
Ultimately, clarity will be key, as the government, the Big Six providers and smaller suppliers demonstrate to the public that their best interests are at the heart of energy policy, and consumers are getting a fair deal.
“Ideally, by the time of the next General Election, I would like the public to have a proper understanding of what makes up their energy bill,” Ms Knight told the Mail.
“Above all I would like the silent majority to agree with the approach that is being taken by the government and industry over energy.”
There is work to be done before this ideal becomes a reality, and it will be up to the government and the country’s energy suppliers to work in tandem to ensure it happens.