Ramsay Dunning, General Manager of Co-operative Energy explains how the new User Chooser initiative is giving consumers the chance to choose their own energy mix and how this innovation builds on a proud heritage of democracy and social responsibility.
When we launched Co-operative Energy in 2011 we said that we would give our customers a real voice in how we are run. We also pledged to play a major part in tackling climate change. Today, we are delivering on those promises as never before with a major new innovation – User Chooser.
Put simply, our customers will be the first in the country (perhaps even the world) to be able to control the exact energy mix of the electricity they buy – be that the energy source utilised or even the local generator who feeds into the supply chain.
Survey after survey shows that trust in UK energy markets is broken. People want an alternative to the Big Six energy suppliers and hundreds of thousands are now switching to new, independent companies such as Co-operative Energy. It goes without saying that they value openness, honesty and fair-pricing. But, a sizeable number also have a deep interest in the provenance of their energy supply – much as they want to know where the food they eat comes from, or how the clothes they wear are made. Sound sourcing and customer engagement are fertile territory for co-operatives: think of the major advances made by the movement around everything from Fairtrade food to FSC-certified timber over recent decades. User Chooser is a natural continuation of this history of ethical innovation.
User Chooser is open to all Co-operative Energy customers and comes at no additional cost. Put simply, customers visit our new Energy Hub website, register and then choose the generation type they prefer (i.e., hydro, solar, wind, gas, coal and nuclear) and, if relevant, the specific generation site to be utilised (e.g., wind farms in Cumbria and Cambridgeshire, hydro-electric scheme at Whitby Esk and Neen Sollars or solar installations in Somerset and Gloucester). In response, Co-operative Energy will buy enough units from each source to match these choices, with the process independently audited. Power purchase agreements are currently in place with around 30 generators, 15 of which involve community groups – so there’s lots to choose from at day one.
We anticipate that community energy projects will be real winners of User Chooser – allowing customers, as never before, to support generation in their locality. Add this to our progressive public policy intervention and support for initiatives such as Community Energy Fortnight, and it’s fair to say that Co-operative Energy has now firmly established itself as one of the most important deliverers of citizen-backed, low carbon energy in the UK.
As a member-owned and controlled business, customer engagement perhaps comes more naturally to us than others. Our User Chooser scheme builds on our proud heritage of democracy and social responsibility, but we won’t be resting on our laurels. User Chooser is just the first of a number of products we will be rolling out on our new Energy Hub in the coming months and years – so get ready for even more Power to the People.
Ramsay Dunning, General Manager, Co-operative Energy @RamsayDunning