Friday, 12 October 2012

Why our energy bills are stupid

British Gas's 6% price rise has highlighted an absurdity about the way in which we are charged, and pay for, gas and electricity.

The point is that prices will continue to go up over time, almost inevitably. Hence, we need to reduce consumption, both to hold down our bills and to reduce carbon emissions.

Yet the pricing structure we are faced with actually encourages consumers and businesses to use more.

Most tariffs have a daily standing charge or they start high and then go down once you have burned up a certain amount.

Low users tend to pay the most per unit.

Why not turn the system on its head: start low, then impose higher tariffs if you use more, rising to penal rates?

That wouldn't be in the suppliers' interests, because they're in the weird business of trying to sell more energy, while having to fly the flag for energy conservation.

But it would cut usage of gas and electricity - and protect people and businesses who did their best to remain within reasonable consumption limits.

There's a hint today from British Gas on can be achieved.

It says that despite hefty price increases in recent years, customers bills have only gone up in line with inflation, because they are using less.

One reason is that people simply can't afford to turn on the heating.

Wouldn't it be better if they paid less for what they really needed, but a higher charge for wasting energy?

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