Duncan Thorp: Fed up with your energy supplier? Alternative firms doing social good are available

Ethical energy companies are on the rise. Consumers are increasingly ­turning to the positive alternatives in the face of poor customer service and ­expensive energy tariffs from the big six suppliers.

Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager, Social Enterprise Scotland
Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager, Social Enterprise Scotland

A recent Which? customer ­satisfaction survey ranked the big six at the bottom of the league table. Their dominance seems to be in ­long-term decline, with a business model that places shareholder ­profits before customers.

Our Power is one of a handful of ­ethical, co-operative and social enterprise alternatives in the UK energy market, a market that also includes Good Energy, Ecotricity and Green Star Energy.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

In Scotland, we have The People’s Energy company too, that prioritises green energy and profit sharing with customers.

There are alternatives to the expensive tariffs of the Big Six

A Scottish company, Our Power was established in 2016. It’s owned by social housing providers, community organisations and local authorities. Their tariffs are available to ­every household in Scotland.

Founding chief executive Dawn Muspratt said: “Over the past two years, Our Power has presented a sustainable alternative to traditional energy providers in the Scottish ­market, offering fairer tariffs for ­everyone and helping people out of fuel poverty. It’s our job to get the ­lowest price and pass that on to all our customers.

“Fuel poverty is a real issue for around four million households in the UK. With our new UK-wide 100 per cent green energy +Impact tariff we aim to challenge the status quo. For every home that switches to the new tariff, Our Power can help to bring energy costs down for families living in, or at risk of, fuel poverty. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

One of the most established ­alternatives is Co-op Energy, part 
of The Midcounties Co-operative, 
the largest independent co-op in the UK.

There are alternatives to the expensive tariffs of the Big Six

David Bird, CEO of Co-op Energy said: “When Co-op Energy launched in 2010, it was because we wanted to create something different to the rest of the energy market, underpinned by a core set of values.

“We’re proud to be owned by our members, and to be part of the largest independent co-operative in the UK. It gives us a mandate to be different. We support more than 40 community-run renewable energy projects and we’re committed to supporting more.

“We distributed more than £1.6m and 36,000 volunteer hours to ­community causes last year. As an energy provider with a difference, we feel we’ve got an important role to play in the evolution of the sector in the years ahead.”

In addition to ethical and social enterprise energy companies we have local communities across Scotland generating their own renewable energy, ensuring that profits directly benefit local areas.

Nicholas Gubbins of Community Energy Scotland said: “Local ­community groups lead the way in tackling energy challenges, despite the cuts in government funding.

“It’s these projects that bring the greatest benefits to communities. Some of the community-owned projects in the Outer Hebrides, for example, demonstrate huge 
transformational impact. We’ve also been working with community groups to develop novel ways for communities to benefit from renewable energy.”

Alongside the announcement from the Scottish Government of a publicly owned energy company, the choice of innovative, alternative suppliers is widening.

It’s easy for consumers to make the switch and put people and ­planet first, using websites like uswitch or Citizens Advice. Make the switch today, improve lives in your local community and help drive forward a greener, fairer Scotland.

Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager, Social Enterprise Scotland.