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Co-operative Energy urges ‘big six’ to rise to renewables challenge

Posted on 17 June 2015

  • Member-owned energy supplier claims ‘Big Six’ are ignoring customers
  • Calls for suppliers to give customers choice in how their energy is produced follows recognition in European sustainable energy awards

Co-operative Energy is calling on the Big Six suppliers to put more power into the hands of consumers by giving them a greater say in the energy they use.

Just 17 per cent of electricity produced in the UK comes from renewable sources such as wind, wave and solar and households still face a very limited choice in the type of energy they can buy.

“This is totally unacceptable,” says Ramsay Dunning, General Manager at Co-operative Energy. “The International Energy Agency now predicts that renewable energy is set to overtake coal and become the world’s number one electricity source by 2030 if countries keep their climate change pledges.

“But here in the UK customers are prevented from doing their bit for the environment because the Big Six are acting like a bunch of ostriches. They have their heads in the sand and aren’t listening to customers.

“We are at the dawn of a new energy era,” Dunning continued. “According to the IEA, global emissions could peak as early as 2020 but it is clear that too many UK suppliers are still not offering customers enough choice in the type of energy they use because they’re stuck with legacy fossil fuel contracts.”

Dunning was speaking after Co-operative Energy won the prestigious EU Sustainable Energy Europe Awards for its innovative, consumer-empowering User Chooser initiative.

The judges singled out Co-operative Energy’s high-level of citizen involvement - something common in northern Europe but rare in UK - and praised its User Chooser project, which allows energy consumers to select the type of energy they prefer, and even decide on a specific site such as a wind farm in Cumbria or a solar farm in Somerset.

Co-operative Energy, which produces 68 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, is the only energy supplier in Europe to offer this option.

Since launching 2011, it has grown its customer base to 250,000 households.

Speaking at the EU Sustainable Energy Europe Awards ceremony in Brussels, Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for climate action and energy, said:

"Today's consumers are not passive. They care about what they buy – they want to know where it comes from, what it's made of, who made it, and whether it's good for them and good for the planet. The energy consumer is as active as the high street shopper checking the product label or 'best before' date. We need to support them to make sustainable choices.” Co-operative Energy has actively sought to source an increasing proportion if its power from community-owned renewable generation initiatives.

A dozen agreements are currently in place with community energy projects – nine of which are active and generate enough output to power 8,000 homes.

Co-operative Energy is owned by Midcounties Co-operative, the UK’s largest independent co-operative organisation.

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