Consumer Trust Critical to Energy Networks
For immediate release – Friday 16 October 2015
At the final Utility Week and ENA fringe event of the party conference season, delegates at the Scottish National Party Conference in Aberdeen have debated the issue of public trust and confidence in utilities.
ENA's Director of Policy Tony Glover was speaking on the panel, and he told the audience that networks have placed customers at the heart of their business plans; ensuring that their voices are heard and that networks are delivering the service customers want.
He also spoke about the way innovation will change the relationship between consumers and their companies that provide their energy, saying:
"Innovation in smart networks is delivering for communities across Scotland, facilitating the transition to a low carbon future and bringing people closer to the energy they use in a more active and engaged energy system."
On innovation in the gas networks, Glover outlined the potential for hydrogen to play an important role in meeting heat demand, and providing vital storage capacity from renewable generation. He explained how excess electricity generated from wind power in Scotland could be converted to hydrogen gas and stored in the gas network, which in future could accommodate up to 10% hydrogen and would not require customers to convert their appliances. He talked about an innovation project underway in Oban in the west of Scotland which is looking at how unconventional gas can be used in the gas network.
Energy Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said that energy networks are leading the way in their approach to customer service. He said he has witnessed a culture change in energy network businesses and the way they engage with their customers, and gave the example of companies talking directly to communities to explain work being carried out to build and maintain vital infrastructure. He said that the change in attitude of networks needs to be replicated across the energy industry if trust is to be rebuilt.
Philip Boswell MP raised the issue of smart meters, and the role they could play in restoring trust and helping vulnerable fuel poor customers. However, he said that some of his constituents have expressed concerns about smart meters, asking the question, "Smart for who?" in relation to the benefits they will deliver. Lewis Shand Smith explained that in other European countries smart meters are making an important contribution to protecting vulnerable customers, as they give social services and welfare providers greater information about people who may need help, or who may have been disconnected from their energy supplies. Tony Glover agreed that the information provided in a smarter energy system will be important in helping vulnerable consumers, and that the networks will play a crucial role in delivering benefits for customers.
Notes to editors
ENA is the voice of the networks representing the ‘wires and pipes’ transmission and distribution network operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland.
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