21 October 2011

Power

Is it just me? Why do we have so many different power providers in Britain - each with its own range of complicated payment schemes? And where is the evidence that all of this "competition" is good for consumers?

For the last year, Shirley and I have been paying £84 a month for all the gas and electricity we consume in our moderate semi-detached home in the suburbs. We have never been in the red. In fact, our payments to "E-on" have normally been comfortably "in credit". Then suddenly, out of the blue, "E-on" tell us that their calculations have led them to conclude that our monthly payments must rise to £137 - a full £53 more than before. That is a 63% increase!

I telephoned the "E-on" monster which said that our previous "scheme" had ended in September. I said, "Well why didn't you let us know and advise us of a more economical "scheme" to replace the previous one?" But the "E-on" monster wasn't really listening. The call-centre woman just kept following her on-screen script which makes no allowances for over-heated Yorkshire puddings or rational questioning.

So I did what our illustrious government advised. I switched, after investigating the other beasts at the waterhole of power. Time for me to brush down my old sporran - we are moving over to Scottish Power! Yes Scottish Power - even though none of our electricity or gas will be piped down from Scotland. And isn't that a funny thing? All these power "providers" are not really providers at all. They're just glorified debt collectors!

Our ancestors lived in woods by water sources. There were no planning authorities. You could grow your own crops, pick your own berries, hunt your own rabbits. You made your own fire and your own light. These things were fundamental. Now we seem beholden to great gods of power for the energy we need. They sponsor football matches and power boat races. They give us Tesco points but in the end we - the general public - are just cash cows to them, held to ransom by monstrous organisations that are more interested in graphs, spreadsheets and the insatiable greed of their shareholders than in the basic rights of ordinary citizens. Power really does corrupt.

5 comments:

  1. I know it's different in Yorkshire, but it's an awfully long time ago since ancestors this side of the hill washed in streams and chopped firewood.

    But the analogy is a good one. It's like someone bought all the water that was yours anyway and then sold it you back.

    Then someone else telling you they could let you have the water (that was already yours) for less.

    "You mean you'd you divert a different stream past my door?"

    "No, same stream, just that you pay me instead."

    I think he was called the Sheriff of Nottingham.

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  2. "Our ancestors lived in woods by water sources...You could grow your own crops, pick your own berries, hunt your own rabbits."

    I would like to point out one little inaccuracy in your fond remembrance of things past. It wasn't that you "could"...you were forced to if you wanted to survive because there weren't any supermarkets either.

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  3. SHOOTING PARROTS I am enormously pleased you share my annoyance about energy companies.
    MR R. PLAGUE I take your point - yes - you "had to" and that is how it was for early Americans - both the native Americans and European immigrants. Survival and prosperity were very much down to your own devices.

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  4. Our power companies actually do produce their own products, I think. Where you live determines which company you have to deal with. I live in a relatively small municipal utility district, for which we elect representatives. My rates are about half what people pay if PG&E is their provider. PG&E is beholden to its shareholders, so you as a customer are not their prime responsibility. This becomes evident when their shoddy gas lines blow up and take 40 houses with them.

    Here, the water gets diverted to wherever the largest population is. LA gets a monstrous share of resources that are not native to its habitat, which means any natural disaster could cut it off in an instant.

    I saw a proposal once that suggested no urban area should surpass the resources available from its own watershed. That would make too much sense, though, to ever be adopted. And it's already too late.

    Things are much different in our rural area. We only tap into electricity and gasoline supplies. All the rest we supply for ourselves.

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  5. Georgia Power is this state's equivalent of PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) that the previous commenter mentioned. Strange thing, though -- the state is divided into several EMC (Electric Membership Cooperative) utilities outside of Atlanta, and they provide our electricity. They buy it from Oglethorpe Power (General Oglethorpe was the founder of Georgia in 1733), which buys it from Georgia Power, and yet we pay less than Georgia Power customers do for the same amount of electricity. I've never figured out how or why that can be so.

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