UK FIRST: Ovo launches new energy platform enabling local community groups to become an energy supplier
Research shows that three times more people believe they would get a fairer deal from a local community energy supplier than a big energy company
Monday 28 APRIL 2014: Today OVO Energy opens the floodgates to new competition in the energy market by launching OVO Communities – its groundbreaking new technology platform. The new tools will enable local community groups to sell energy to local residents, generate their own power and invest in energy efficiency, all without the need for big investments in energy systems, technology and infrastructure.
OVO has invested heavily in scalable systems that will give energy companies all the tools they need to run a utility business including customer service, billing, trading, and power generation. The company will also offer next generation smart metering, power purchasing and energy efficiency installations as part of its new platform.
OVO anticipates that by 2020 around five million UK consumers could benefit from the creation of up to 500 new community-based energy suppliers in the UK energy market.
Recent YouGov research shows that three times more people believe they would get a fairer deal from a local community energy supplier than a big energy company proving that community energy solutions are the future.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder and managing director, OVO Energy, says: One of the great myths of today’s energy industry is that we need big, centralized energy companies to keep the lights on. OVO launched just five years ago and we have proved that small can be beautiful; we run a more efficient business, with happier customers and lower prices. We now supply just over 1% of the UK market, and are growing quickly. Now we want to share our knowledge and expertise to encourage others to follow our lead.
Fitzpatrick continued: “But we don’t want to become ‘one of the Big 7.’ We see ourselves as very different from other big energy companies. We put the customers’ interests first and then build our business around that. We think enabling local energy companies to flourish is what is best for customers and best for the market. By enabling hundreds of potential new entrants to share our infrastructure, OVO is smashing down barriers to entry into an industry that desperately needs a fresh approach.
We face a big energy challenge in the UK, and we really need to change how the industry works. On our own, it would take OVO too long, but by enabling hundreds of new entrants to get started, we can really get change happening much faster. Better regulation is definitely going to help get the market working for customers, but this kind of innovation is what can really drive change.”
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said:
“OVO's initiative is good news for energy consumers and shows that the independent suppliers who've grown so much in the last few years are stepping up the competition with the large energy companies. Helping local people take control of their power supply fits very much with our community energy vision, opening up energy markets to smaller companies and community organisations.”
The move by OVO Energy is, in effect going back to the future. In 1881 the world’s first electricity supplier was a community-based scheme powered by a water wheel on a nearby river. By 1915 there were 600 electricity suppliers across the UK.
Nationalisation effectively reduced these 600 suppliers down to one. It was hoped that privatisation in the 1980s and 1990s would unleash a new wave of competition, but it clearly failed.
OVO will be working with local authorities, housing associations, community benefit societies and other organisations with a strong social purpose to buy energy from private suppliers such as wind farm owners and those with PV solar panels and sell it back to the neighbourhood residents at a discounted tariff. If communities do not have enough privately owned energy for all its residents, OVO Energy will top up the supply with their own at a discounted rate.