Martin Hickman: Unbridled greed of Big Six cannot be tolerated in hard times

Share
Related Topics

The Big Six exert a far tighter stranglehold on energy than their counterparts in other industries with large calls on household budgets. The results of this oligopoly are over-the-top prices, confusing bills and poor customer service.

That they have become so dismal is probably not their fault: any industry dominated by so few players would be inclined towards mediocrity. The blame lies with Labour politicians and the regulator Ofgem, which was asleep on the job until 2010. For more than a decade, Tony Blair's Energy ministers shirked the hard decisions required to create a sustainable and competitive energy sector. They were content to see bills fall as finite cheap North Sea oil was sucked up and pumped into poorly insulated homes, and takeovers shrank the 20 energy firms at privatisation to six.

They failed to recommission nuclear plants or launch a vigorous campaign to insulate thermally wasteful homes leaking heat through roofs and walls.

The resulting energy crisis will be felt in homes across the UK. With the hasty running down of North Sea gas and global decline of easy-to-extract oil, bills have rocketed. Where once energy was so cheap that many people saw no need to insulate, the opposite is now true: hundreds of thousands more people are having to choose between heating and eating.

And the squeeze is likely to continue. Britain requires up to £200bn of new infrastructure this decade to keep the lights on, with Ofgem estimating bills will have to rise by up to 60 per cent by 2020 to fund it.

Since 2009, Ofgem has become tougher and there has been renewed political pressure. Even more starkly, hard times have changed the context for the companies. With rising unemployment and budgets squeezed by higher fuel prices and benefit cuts, people have become less willing to tolerate greedy businesses, and there is a growing desire to check the activities of irresponsible capitalism. The solutions – a crackdown on prices and more competition – are more likely now.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Seven per cent of young men have recently stopped using deodorant  

‘Sweaty-gate’ leaves a bad smell for PRs and journalists

Danny Rogers
Alison Parker and Adam Ward: best remembered before tragedy  

The only way is ethics: Graphic portraits of TV killings would upset many, not just our readers in the US

Will Gore
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border