News Round-Up: Fines, Funding And Road Work Criticisms

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Another one of the big six energy providers has been hit with a major fine this week. Meanwhile, one of its competitors has just received funding for an exciting new piece of energy tech that could save customers thousands of pounds. In other news, a regional utility provider could face legal action after criticisms about its road works in Edinburgh.

EDFScottish WaterSSE
EDF Energy Ordered To Pay £3m After Complaints Investigation

EDF Energy, one of the six most popular providers in the United Kingdom, is the latest utility company to be hit with a major fine. It has been ordered to pay £3 million in damages by the energy watchdog Ofgem after an investigation into its complaint handling.

The investigation was launched after it was revealed that complaints about EDF had risen by 30 per cent. The company explained that the complaints were regarding the introduction of a new IT system that was installed in 2011. However, Ofgem found that while EDF had a legitimate explanation for the complaints, the business did not have the means to properly process the criticisms. Ofgem believe it was not properly receiving, recording or processing complaint calls.

One of Ofgem’s members of staff, Sarah Harrison, says that EDF failed in its duty to customers and must improve.

She said: “EDF Energy failed to have sufficiently robust processes in place when they introduced a new IT system and this led to the unacceptable handling of complaints. It is now vital for EDF Energy and the industry as a whole to truly put customers first and put adequate resources in place to deal with complaints.”

The fine follows similar ones handed down to other ‘big six’ providers. E.on was recently given a £12 million fine for mis-selling, SSE was given a slightly lower £10.5 million fine for the same reasons, as was Npower who had to cough up £3.5 million. British Gas was also fined £6.6 million for not allowing its customers to switch providers as well as mis-selling.

The £3 million that EDF Energy has been fined will go to a Citizen’s Advice scheme called Best Deal Extra. This is a service set up in order to help the most vulnerable people in the United Kingdom get the fairest gas and electricity deals possible.

The EDF Energy Managing Director of Customers, Beatrice Bigois, said: “Despite our best efforts and extensive planning to manage this transition in 2011 without impacting our customers, we recognise that for a period of time the service to our customers was not up to the standards they deserve.”

Scottish Water Attacked For Poor Road Works

Wessex WaterScottish Water has been told that it must get its act together after it has left several city roads in Edinburgh devastated following road works. The utility company has been ordered to pay up to £15,000 in fines as a result of these poor road works.

Transport bosses have placed Scottish Water on an improvement programme after it was revealed that the utility provider received 60 per cent more fines than any other company who worked on roads in Edinburgh. Senior members of staff from Scottish Water have also been brought in for talks with council officials about the matter.

Scottish Water must agree to comply with the demands of transport bosses and council officials. If it does not, the utility provider could face legal action and be reported to the Scottish Road Works Commissioner.

The figures come after a decision to decrease poor roads works in Edinburgh. The council made a commitment to inspect every road work scheme to make sure it is being carried out properly. The number of inspections went up by over 100 per cent over the last year.

A spokesperson for Scottish Water said: “We are working hard to bring down the number of repairs required, and have reduced outstanding defective apparatus in Edinburgh by around 40 per cent in the last four years. Further work has been carried out since the end of March, the end of the time period covered by this report, and we are looking to maintain the pace of improvement.”

Scottish Water has provided water and sewerage services across Scotland since it was founded in 2002. It is based out of its headquarters in Dunfermline, Scotland.

SSE Gets £800,000 Funding For New Energy Tech

£800,000 of fresh funding has been awarded to SSE for a joint venture between the energy company and the business Intelligent Energy. The funding will go towards developing new technology that will change the way domestic energy is produced and used. The funding has been provided by the Scottish Investment Bank.

The technology is intended to take mains gas and convert it into hydrogen. This will then be processed into a hydrogen fuel cell stack which acts like a mini power station. It does so by converting the hydrogen into cheap electrical power and heat that can be used at customers’ homes.

The technical director of Intelligent Energy hopes that the technology will be ready to roll out in two years time. The funds, he claims, will go towards completing the development.

Mark Bugler, the technical director in question, said: “We have got some political lobbying to do to get a fuller understanding really of the potential for fuel cells. Certainly on the technology side, it [the funding] helps. This is really the start of the journey to get the whole of the UK excited about the potential for what ultimately is the best form of using a gas in a chemical process, rather than burning it.”

The technology is expected to lower the cost of annual energy bills by around £1000 for five million customers. This comes from a report by the energy analyst Ecuity who investigated the impact of rolling out five million fuel cell smart units across Britain in the next 20 years. The cells are, furthermore, expected to be far more efficient as they do not lose as much energy through production and transmission.

Technical director Mark Bugler also said: “We see this as part of the UK energy mix for the future. At the moment you have got centralised power stations, which generate electricity at less than 50 per cent efficiency. By decentralising power and putting power stations at the homes, rather than centrally in the country, you avoid all the emissions plus all the losses and extra cost of upgrading and maintaining the network.”

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