Monday, 1 September 2008

The big energy con

There as been talk recently of imposing a windfall tax on the energy companies. I had never been in favour of such schemes but now I believe something needs to be done. There are two aspects to this post. Firstly the governments Warm Front scheme which is designed to help older people improve the energy efficiency of their home. Grants are available of up to £2700 for such things as cavity wall and loft insulation and in some circumstances to help meet the cost of new boilers. Our MP clearly thinks this is generally good news because we have seen him pictured with a big cheque for Sandwell for the next round of grants. I used to work with older people so I was involved with sign posting and helping them get funding. The new scheme though has one fundament fault which the government obviously know about and are choosing to ignore. If you qualify for a grant for help towards a new boiler they have a “no hot water rule” which means your old boiler has to break down before the grant comes into play. An assessor is then sent to check out your claim. This can take up to a month. We have been waiting for 5 weeks although an assessment had been made earlier in the year and our grant approved. So what to do? With my health, being cold in the winter is not an option so we decide we need to invest in a new boiler and get British Gas to supply and fit it. At the same time that this is happening British Gas send me my quarterly statement with the advice that my monthly payments are going to increase by 42%. I’m arguing with their adviser because they advertised 30% with less if like me you are a duel source customer. He’s having none of it “we’ve checked the account and that’s the amount you need to pay” “I’m in credit” I claim but to no avail. I then explain I have just yesterday had fitted a brand new condensing boiler which is graded by you as the most energy efficient. Your company fitted it and claim I am going to save 140 quid a year. So can I start getting some payback on my investment? Sorry mate he explains but we can’t take your word for that we have to monitor your usage over the next six months. By this time I am really peed off and ready to tell him to stick his therms up his thermostat. On my calculations I’m going to paying well over the top until February next year when they might let me have my money back. Unless of course the claims they make for the efficiency of the boiler and the predicted saving, which I have in writing, are not realised. It all smacks of a big business con to me which needs to be investigated along with the farce “no hot water rule” before pensioners do really start to die of cold this winter. The industry regulator seems powerless to act against these companies so it is up the government to step in and do something about it and about the Warm Front grants but they already know that barmy condition applies. So who is actually conning who here? Still everything’s OK we’re getting an extra 50 quid at Christmas, bah humbug

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