Stephen Fitzpatrick talks to BBC Two’s Daily Politics programme about competition in the energy market

29 November 2013 | OVO Energy

This morning founder of OVO Stephen Fitzpatrick joined Andrew Neil on BBC Two’s Daily Politics programme. Here’s what was said:

What changes are needed in the Energy Market?

I think it’s become quite a political issue, it’s always been a political issue, it seems much more so. We’d like to see actions that will affect customers’ bills this winter. We’d like to see a greater focus on competition, that’s going to help some customers and then better regulation, tougher regulation on the big six from Ofgem to help those customers who are unlikely to switch energy supplier. Some of the political noises that we are hearing they are helpful but when we talk about things that are going to take effect in two or three years’ time I don’t think that’s what customers are really interested in.

But is change possible this winter?

There’s nothing that would stop real reforms being implemented, a different approach or a different mandate from Ofgem being announced in this Autumn Statement. A change of mandate for Ofgem would be to intervene not necessarily set pricing but certainly do away with some of the profiteering we see within the big six. A lot of the big six profits are made from a relatively small number of customers who are on the oldest tariffs, the standard tariffs and so on, and Ofgem have talked about simplifying the market with more new tariffs and so on and we hear these ideas from the political parties and it’s great that they are talking about it. But if the government were to say Ofgem we want you to do something about overcharging about very high margin tariffs today they could figure it out, it could happen very very quickly.

Is government doing enough?

They are listening. We are talking about it, it’s a great start. But when I hear that we need to think about how we are going to refresh our infrastructure, the network and so on. And then I hear policies that are being announced like a price freeze at some point in the future with the prices not set or defined yet, you don’t get certainty for consumers but you create uncertainty for investors. That’s the problem that I’ve got that this issue has become so political now that it looks like everybody is trying to reduce a very complex issue in to a simple slogan to increase votes. That may be politics but energy is very very important, a lot of people struggle to pay their bills, the last thing anybody wants is for the lights to go out but we need to focus on value for money, transparency, I think competition is going to be the best way to lower bills over the long term but it’s going to take a long time.

Is Ofgem, the energy industry regulator, doing their bit?

Ofgem have announced a whole list of faults and problems with the market that reads like something from our website – sticky customers being over charged – ten pages of problems with the market and their solution is energy companies can have four tariffs and we will see where we are in 2017. That’s four winters – how many people are going to be affected by that!