q Symbio Energy and The Demise of the Independent

Symbio Energy and The Demise of the Independent

The demise of a host of independent energy suppliers recently says as much about privatisation as it does wholesale gas prices. Including Watford based Symbio Energy another 30 operators shut up shop in 2021. Three operators went bust in 2022 including Together Energy which was 50% owned by Symbio energyWarrington Council and had 175,000 customers. All of which were transferred to British Gas on the 23rd January 2022. Together Energy together with it’s subsidiary (Bristol Energy) were unable to secure emergency funding.

Amongst the largest suppliers to go bust was Bulb energy who were the 7th largest energy supplier, at the time, in the UK. Bulb provided energy to every 1 in 17 homes, however due to the size of Bulb, customers could not be directly off loaded to a new supplier. The logistics of switching 1.7 million customers directly to a new or replacment supplier was never an option for OFGEM. Bulb was therefore placed in to special administration (with approval of the Business Secretary) and allowed to carry on business as normal. Launched in 2015 the company grew it’s client base dramatically, owing in part, to £50 incentives for client referrals. Together with a £50 incentive to the new customer.

This membership growth saw an increase in revenue to £823 million in 2020. However that growth came at a cost and net losses reached £129 million between April 2018 and March 2019. These losses up from £28 million the previous fiscal year. Symbio energy customers were transferred to EON NEXT in line with Ofgem’s Supplier of Last Resort (SOLR) practice, as were Hub Energy and Igloo. Customers of Whoop Energy (262 (212 non domestic))  and Xcel Power Ltd (274 (gas only (non domestic)) were transferred to YU Energy. In total 50,000 of Symbio energy customers were handed to E.ON.

The writing was on the wall for Symbio Energy when Ofgem issued a provisional order to pay £450k for a government environmental scheme. 82,000 of PFP Energy customers were transferred to British Gas as were 50,000 of Simplicity customers. Avro Energy, one of the biggest supplier’s to exit the market (580,000 customers) were transferred to Octopus while 250,000 of Green Energy (180 employees) clients were transferred to Shell Energy. Those companies that have folded in 2021 and 2022 are as follows:

Energy companies that folded in 2022

  • Together Energy (January 18)
  • Whoop Energy (February 18)
  • Xcel Power (February 18)

Symbio Energy and others from 2021

  • Simplicity Energy (January 27)
  • Green Network Energy (January 27)
  • HUB Energy (August 9)
  • PFP Energy (September 7)
  • MoneyPlus Energy (September 7)
  • Utility Point (September 14)
  • People’s Energy (September 14)
  • Green (September 22)
  • Avro Energy (September 22)
  • Igloo Energy (September 29)
  • Symbio Energy (September 29)
  • Enstroga (September 29)
  • Pure Planet (October 13)
  • Colorado Energy (October 13)
  • Daligas (October 14)
  • GOTO Energy (October 18)
  • Bluegreen Energy Services (November 1)
  • Ampoweruk (November 2)
  • Zebra Power (November 2)
  • MA Energy (November 2)
  • Omni Energy (November 2)
  • CNG Energy (November 3)
  • Social Energy Supply (November 16)
  • Neon Reef (November 16)
  • Bulb Energy (in administration – November 24)
  • Orbit Energy (November 25)
  • Entice Energy (November 25
  • Zog Energy (December 1)

Is the UK on the verge of a nationwide energy crisis. National Grid has warned that UK households may suffer blackouts between 4 and 7pm (January & February). This is if gas exports are cut leaving the power network  vulnerable which could affect  millions of homes and businesses. Collectively we have to wish for a mild Winter. The UK Independent Energy Association (UKIEA) had also previously warned that the lack of investment in new infrastructure would lead to an electricity supply shortfall.

The government has been blamed for failing to provide enough support for renewable energy, which is one of the key sources for green energy. The UK was once a world leader in the field but it now lags behind many of it’s European counterparts such as Germany and Denmark. This despite investing £19 million in Research and Development. On average EU countries generate 14% of electricity from renewable sources, the UK figure is only 2.65.

Turnover in the UK low carbon and renewable energy economy (LCREE) was estimated to be £41.2 billion in 2020, however this was little change since the survey began in 2014. Furthermore employment within the UK LCREE was estimated at around 207,800 full-time equivalent (FTE) in 2020, with no significant change since 2014.

The Spectre of Privatisation

Privatisation within the UK has widely been associated with Thatcher and the Tory government. When Thatcher came to power in 1979 privatisation, within it’s manifesto, played a minot part. However as the 80’s moved forward this became central to it’s thinking. While in 1945 to 1951 Clement Attlee was nationalising companies Thatcher set about unpicking this. Industries and sectors that were converted to private firms included airports and aerospace, railways, steel and utilities. Uilities being electricity, gas, water and telecoms, Royal Mail followed in 2013. In 1990 when Thatcher was ousted over 40 UK state owned businesses that employed 600,000 people had been privatised. In escess of £600 billion of state assets had been sold off.

In keeping with Tory idealogy of greed the privatisation of British Gas has been just that. Most recently, prior to scuttling off to pastures new, previous Centrica boss Iain Conn took home £2.42 million, a 44% pay rise on 2018 (up from £1.68 million), this following a bill hike for millions of customers taking effect. Together with thousands of British Gas workers who lost their jobs or had to accept swathing cuts to their retirement pensions in order to support the company. Mr Conn also successfully presided over the Centrica share price falling by around 73% from £2.93 to 80p.

Conn also lost money on his own share purchase. In late July of 2016 Conn purchased 100,000 shares @ £2.45. Confirming that his personal investment acumen in to Centrica was on a par with his management of same.  Conn was succeeded in March 2020 by another buffoon in the shape of Chris O’Shea. Asides from having faeces dropped through his letterbox he has also been vilified for his inflated pay packet while pushing the ‘fire and rehire’ policy on to British Gas engineers.  In 2020 he received the Scrooge of the Year 2020 award from GMB, the union for British Gas workers.

Given these facts it is perverse and inconceivable that OFGEM should award British Gas/Centrica 800,000 customers, on a plate, from independent suppliers who had gone out of business. Why were these 800,000 customers not dispersed to surviving independents? The reason being is that Ofgem, in the main, is propped up by funding from the licenses it grants to British Gas, EDF, Eon, SSE, NPower and Scottish Power. OFGEM is  institutionally incapable of effectively regulating the Big 6 cartel. British gas are incapable of fulfilling it’s own home care contracts and have inaccurately recorded customer data to Credit Reference Agents bllighting many thousands of lives.

 

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