chapter 1
 

Our relationship with energy 

 

Me and my supplier

Non-existant, distant and outdated. This is how people described their relationship with their energy supplier to us in three words. It’s clear that people have a high level of apathy towards their provider.

Even more tellingly, 14% of people we spoke to didn’t even know who their provider was.

When dealing with utilities, most people follow the path of least resistance; pay the bill and don’t think about it—even if it feels expensive.

This is evidenced by:

  • Only 52% of customers are satisfied with their supplier
  • 50% increase in customer complaints since beginning of 2011
  • 43% don’t trust their energy suppliers to be open and transparent (up 4% from 2016)
  • Less than 30% switched their energy provider, despite it being easier than ever to do so
 

 Me and my energy

Every person we spoke to during our research said they were at least somewhat conscious about the environment and where their energy comes from, but this rarely translated to actions. This is reflected in a huge number of studies that suggest despite the availability of providers offering renewable energy sources, people are reluctant to switch unless the price is right. 

These are a few reasons why there is a disconnect between people's current energy choices and their potential positive impact on the environment:

  • We don’t know how the whole energy system works

  • Switching is perceived to be long and painful—even by those with no prior experience of switching

  • We don’t trust renewable energy claims made by providers

  • We don't trust the new wave of providers with our hard earned money 

  • We don't care enough to investigate if there is a better option

  • Small problems take priority over large problems; we feel we can make a difference to our own lives but we can’t change the world by ourselves 

 
 

customer interviews

On making everyday choices that positively impact the environment.

 

customer interviews

On not being convinced enough to switch to a renewable energy provider.

 

We overpay for our indifference

Energy providers and consumers don’t speak the same language. As consumers, we don’t connect the energy we use with bills that talk about price per kilowatt hour, so we don’t really know what good looks like. We don’t understand (or care) how the costs are calculated, just the figure at the end of the bill.

Our expectation is driven by what we think we “should” be paying, based on prior experience or what others around us pay. But we still perceive switching to be hard.

  • 16m UK households on a Standard Variable Rate (SVR) tariff

  • £7bn  overpaid by those households in a single year

  • The average available variable tariff is £1135 per year vs the cheapest available tariff which is £827 per year. 

There is a £308 yearly price difference between an average variable rate and the cheapest available tariff. Add in dual fuel discounts and direct debit discounts, and the cost of our indifference is plain to see.

 

Who pays the most and has the least control when it comes to energy? 

Chapter 2: Utilities for shared living ➞