Major power users lose out

Big UK electricity users were denied the price cuts and service improvements enjoyed by domestic customers and smaller businesses last year, the Major Energy Users’ Council (MEUC) said this week. Industry regulator Offer’s annual report, published last week, said prices for the typical householder had fallen by about 5%, while those for industrial customers had […]

Big UK electricity users were denied the price cuts and service improvements enjoyed by domestic customers and smaller businesses last year, the Major Energy Users’ Council (MEUC) said this week.

Industry regulator Offer’s annual report, published last week, said prices for the typical householder had fallen by about 5%, while those for industrial customers had dropped by 8-9%.

But Don McGarrigle, who chairs the MEUC’s electricity group, said the change in prices for his members last year had ranged between plus and minus 2%, with more experiencing increases than decreases.

‘Industrial prices have seemed if anything to have increased over the last year,’ he said.

He added that the situation had been worse for the 100-odd large users who bought their power direct from the pool, who had been forced to contend with a 4% hike in the pool selling price.

While Offer reported that the overall level of complaints about regional distribution companies was down by as much as 60%, McGarrigle said MEUC members were still suffering an unacceptable number of voltage and frequency disruptions, which could involve losses running into tens of thousands of pounds.

With only direct damage subject to compensation, McGarrigle said the quality of electricity supply is still a ‘big issue’. It will be discussed at the organisation’s next meeting on 15 July, particularly as redress for consequential losses was likely to remain at discretion of the power companies. ‘You’ve really got to beg for some sort of ex-gratia payment,’ he said.

The MEUC is backing the proposed changes in the electricity trading arrangements, which would replace the pool system with one based on bilateral contracts with spot and futures markets. ‘It creates a bit more choice on both sides,’ McGarrigle said.

At a seminar last week, Offer suggested that the change could lead to a 20-30% reduction in prices.