Baffling Utility Bills Leave Consumers Confused, Bemused And Definitely Not Amused

Consumers are being left confused, badly informed and potentially vulnerable to debt because of the poor quality of some major household bills, according to, the independent price comparison and switching service. The warning comes after new research revealed stark differences in the standard of bills being issued by different industry sectors. While some are simple and straightforward for people to understand, others are leaving consumers totally confused.

Energy suppliers, water companies and home telephone and broadband providers are responsible for the most confusing household bills. Of these, energy bills appear to be the most complicated – three quarters (75%) of consumers find them confusing. Other utility providers are not doing much better either – 59% of consumers find their home telephone, broadband and DTV bills confusing, matched by those left confused by water bills (59%).

Worryingly, 68% of consumers find energy bills harder to understand than other household bills. On average households are spending £1,243 a year on energy bills, but only four in ten consumers (40%) find it easy to work out how their energy company has calculated their bill. Suppliers also seem to be failing to communicate on a basic level with their customers – only 39% of people think that their energy bills are written in plain English. Less than half (45%) think that the name of their energy plan is easy to understand.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are banks and building societies, where almost three quarters (72%) of consumers find their bills and statements simple and straightforward to understand. Personal finance companies generally seem to be issuing customer-friendly information in a format that most people can understand – just 41% of consumers find credit and store card bills confusing.

The findings suggest that the energy industry is lagging behind other sectors in being able to communicate simply and clearly with customers. This could leave consumers disadvantaged as energy bills account for a sizeable chunk of the average annual household budget. Experts also predict that energy bills will quadruple within the next 10 years. If consumers are to be able to manage this aspect of their budget, and be able to make an informed decision when switching, they need to be able to understand basic information such as their consumption, spend and tariff details.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at, says: “Nobody likes bills, but they do play a fundamental part in the relationship between a company and its customers. A well-written, clear and concise bill should leave consumers feeling empowered and in control, not bemused. This is why it is so worrying to find that three quarters of us are confused by our energy bills.

“Ofgem has signalled its intention to work with suppliers on improving energy bills. This is a vital piece of work if we are to see well-informed consumers taking full advantage of the competitive energy market. If Ofgem is to succeed in making energy bills simpler, clearer and easier then it has to look outside of the energy industry for ideas on best practice. Judging by our research, it could do far worse than look to banks and building societies, which seem to be leading the way in providing consumers with bills and information they can easily understand.”

About uSwitch: is a free, impartial online and telephone-based comparison and switching service, helping consumers compare prices on gas, electricity, water, heating cover, home telephone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones, personal finance products and car insurance.

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npower Achieve A Coveted Big Tick Award For Spreading Warmth

npower achieve a coveted Big Tick Award from Business in the Community (BitC) in the Marketplace Impact category, for its ‘Spreading Warmth’ programme, which is helping to alleviate fuel poverty across the UK.


npower, has helped more than 150,000 customers benefit through the programme; providing financial support, including npower’s social tariff and help with outstanding energy debts, as well as energy saving advice over the phone and in the home which has helped change consumer behaviour to use energy more efficiently.

npower has trained its staff to identify and assist its vulnerable customers, promote assistance available through a range of marketing campaigns and through engagement with external stakeholders developed a targeted programme which provides meaningful help to its customers most in need.

The initiative received the P&G Responsible Marketing and Innovation award for the second year running, and involves training employees to recognise those most at risk, including identifying customers who pay more than 10% of their income on energy bills.

In addition to the Big Tick award, npower has achieved Platinum status in the BitC’s Corporate Responsibility Index, the UK’s leading voluntary benchmark of corporate responsibility.

Paul Dear, programme manager at npower, said: “Being acknowledged in both BitC’s Big Tick awards and Corporate Responsibility Index is a huge achievement.

“In total, we have received three Big Tick Awards throughout the company, and protecting vulnerable and fuel poor customers’ is at the heart of our business ethos. The Spreading Warmth programme demonstrates how, as one of the UK’s largest utility companies, we operate responsibly and seek to develop personal relationships with customers.

“Our advisors are trained to offer sensitive advice to customers, with a specific focus on recommending the correct tariff and suitable repayment methods.”

The Big Tick is awarded to businesses which are able to demonstrate significant impact and high quality management of their responsible business practices, as Stephen Howard, chief executive at Business in the Community, confirmed: “The Big Tick is now recognised as both a valuable and difficult award to achieve.

“Those who achieve the Big Tick are leading companies, ones that run their businesses aware that they depend above all on the talent, innovation and loyalty of their people. They know that they cannot build a successful sustainable business without constantly showing their commitment to being a better business,” he added.

About npower:
RWE npower has been awarded the prestigious Community Mark from Business in the Community (BitC). npower is the only utility business, amongst 21 other companies in the UK, to receive this accolade. The Community Mark is a new BitC standard, created to recognise companies that are good investors in local communities and who have brought about real and positive changes

– npower received three awards in the 2009 Big Tick Awards for its impact in the workplace, community and marketplace.

– BitC’s Corporate Responsibility Index is the UK’s leading voluntary benchmark of corporate responsibility. This year, 141 businesses participated, with seven companies achieving the new Platinum Plus level

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Household Energy Bills to Hit Almost GBP5k in 10 Years Time

Consumers are being warned today that they could be facing annual energy bills of almost £5,000 a year by 2020. The shock forecast from, the independent price comparison and switching service, is based on pricing trends over the last 5 years and takes into account the huge investment programme shortly to be undertaken by the energy industry and Government. The investment, expected to total £233.5 billion, will secure the country’s longer-term supply and enable the roll-out of smart metering into all homes, but will add £548 a year onto household energy bills for the next 15 years.


Looking at pricing trends alone, consumers could expect energy bills to reach £4,185 by 2020. This strips out the cost of investment, but factors in inflation and volatility in the wholesale markets, as seen by suppliers over the last 5 years. Since 2004, global demand for energy and volatility in wholesale prices have contributed to a 114% increase in household energy prices, including a 42% or £381 increase last year. The overall effect has been to see household energy bills more than doubling from £580 in 2004 to £1,243 today.

Volatility is expected to continue to be a dominant theme in the energy market going forward. Although the current world-wide recession is dampening demand for energy, the recession is due to end by 2011/12, when global demand for energy can be expected to start climbing again. Power hungry economies, such as China and India, will be returning to strength, resulting in an upward pressure on wholesale energy prices. At the same time, North Sea oil will start to run out adding greater pressure on the market. Wholesale energy prices account for around 50% of a household bill so continuing volatility will have an impact on the amount consumers will pay.

As well as upward pressure on household energy bills, there will be downward pressure too. The Government’s drive to make British households more energy efficient will start to pay dividends. But, instead of reducing bills it will serve to counterbalance other factors pushing energy usage up, such as the growth in single person households, Britain’s ageing population and growing reliance on electrical gadgets.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at, says: “This is a wake-up call for us all. The £5,000 a year energy bill may seem like an outside possibility, but we have to remember that energy bills doubled in the last five years alone and that the huge investment needed just to keep the lights on in Britain will alone add £548 a year onto our bills. The fact is we are entering a new era of high cost energy and households will have to adapt their behaviour accordingly.

“The Government has been banging the drum for energy efficiency for a while now, but consumers have been reluctant to spend money on these measures. As a result, energy efficiency has been massively underperforming even though it is one of the biggest defences we have against escalating energy costs. We also have a competitive energy market, and yet less than 5% of consumers are on the most competitive energy plans – most people are paying far more than they have to for the energy they use.

“This has to change. My advice to consumers is to invest in making your home more energy efficient, reduce the amount of energy you use and make sure you are paying the lowest possible price for it. Big projects such as a new energy efficient boiler or home insulation can be expensive, but the savings you make through cutting the price of your energy could be re-invested into energy efficiency measures so that you reap even greater rewards in the future.

“Don’t be put off. If cost is an issue, speak to your supplier to see if they can help – they have a pot of money available to help households with energy efficiency. Or contact the Energy Saving Trust for advice. The key thing is to start future-proofing yourself against higher energy bills now.”

About uSwitch: is a free, impartial online and telephone-based comparison and switching service, helping consumers compare prices on gas, electricity, water, heating cover, home telephone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones, personal finance products and car insurance.

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Opus Energy Urges Businesses Not To Overlook The Savings That Can Be Made Through Proactive Electricity Management


Opus Energy, a leading independent supplier of electricity to UK businesses, has today launched a new website offering specialist electricity advice to businesses across the UK.

The online service has been specifically created by Opus Energy to provide practical advice to businesses on issues such as being more energy efficient, measuring electricity usage and how to reduce bills.

The new Opus Energy advice site is a one stop shop for businesses to learn how to:
• Carry out a site energy review
• Make energy saving steps in the workplace
• Switch to different tariff
• Lower electricity bills

The website was launched after Opus Energy completed a poll of 500 small businesses in the UK and found that only 3% of managers would review their gas or electricity tariffs in order to make business savings in the current economic downturn.

Saving by switching
Energy is a widely overlooked business service that has the potential to provide vital savings for companies who want to make more of an impact to their bottom line.

Duncan Lebbern, Financial Director of RIF Worldwide, a logistics service provider, reviewed the company’s overheads after his import business was affected by the economic downturn. Money saved from switching supplier to Opus Energy helped Duncan expand his company: opening three new offices in the UK this year. He said: “We all rely on electricity to power our working days whether during a downturn or otherwise. Switching supplier to Opus Energy allowed us to run the business economically, allowing us to grow our company even during these tough times.”

Saving by monitoring
As well as identifying the savings that could be made by switching supplier, the Opus Energy advice website provides information about measuring energy and smart metering. Research from the Carbon Trust shows that by simply monitoring energy use in the workplace, companies could save over 12.3% on their bills.

Steve James, Commercial Director at Opus Energy, said: “The Opus Energy advice website has been launched to help our customers and UK businesses understand how to reduce their overheads and improve efficiency at a time when every penny counts. We’re encouraging businesses to take a proactive approach. By taking control of their tariff, monitoring their usage and taking steps to be more energy efficient, UK businesses can realise substantial financial savings and make a real impact to their bottom line in this economic downturn.”

Saving by upgrading
The Opus Energy advice site also provides information for businesses wishing to apply for a Carbon Trust interest-free loan enabling them to upgrade to more energy efficient equipment. Many Carbon Trust customers find that the energy savings they make using their new efficient equipment more than covers their loan repayments. All the information businesses need to find out about the scheme is easily accessible on the Opus Energy advice site, alongside links to carbon calculators and loan application details.

From making sure your business is more energy efficient and reducing your bills, through to how to getting your hands on interest free energy loans, Opus Energy is on hand to help offer advice.

The new website from Opus Energy can be found at

About Opus Energy
Opus Energy is a leading independent supplier of electricity to UK businesses. Opus Energy supplies over 50,000 UK business sites across all sectors. Large customers include: Stagecoach (LSE: SGC.L), Thorntons (LSE: THT.L), Farmfoods, FirstGroup (LSE: FGP.L), Cumbria County Council and Deloitte & Touche.

Over the last two years (between April 2006 and March 2008), over 60% of the energy supplied by Opus Energy to its customers came from cleaner, low-carbon sources – 54% from renewable generators and 8% from cleaner Combined Heat and Power (CHP) produced by CHP generators. These CHP generators have been awarded accreditation by the regulator, Ofgem, for producing cleaner, more environmentally friendly power.

Opus Energy’s management team has a 50 percent stake in the business, while International Power Plc (LSE: IPR.L) holds 30 percent and Telecom Plus Plc (LSE: TEP.L) has 20 percent. With offices in Northampton and Oxford, Opus Energy employs 230 people. For further information about Opus Energy, please see

1. ‘Advanced Metering for SMEs’ report published by The Carbon Trust, summer 2007.

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Eupelix LLC Develops Low Energy, Low Emission Process Of Refining Petroleum

Scientists of Eupelix, LLC have developed an ecologically clean, energy efficient method modifying properties of crude petroleum, including braking down long molecules (cracking) into smaller molecules, at room temperature. 

First demonstration experiments were carried out recently by Eupelix staff with the assistance of researchers from the University of Illinois College of Engineering, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Illinois State Geological Survey.

Eupelix personnel used high frequency, solid-state pulse generators in proprietary circuits and reactors to produce fast electromagnetic fields which affected the physical and chemical properties of crude oils in large volumes. The process decreased the content of heavy oil fractions, breaking them into more valuable, lighter fractions. There also are decreases in the viscosity and the content of toxic sulfur compounds.

For more than 70 years, traditional thermal cracking processes have been carried out by oil refineries at extremely high temperatures. Temperatures exceeding 500 °C have been used to break heavy oil fractions into lighter fractions to produce gasoline and diesel fuels.

“Using these high temperatures involves the extensive power consumption contributing to the cost of fuels and negative environmental impact,” said Eupelix CEO Dmitri Novikov.

Now important steps in upgrading oils can be accomplished without the use of heat, minimizing energy consumption and the impact on the environment, Novikov said.

Petroleum desulfurization is also an important issue for the oil industry trying to reduce the content of sulfur in the end products. This decreases the environmental toxicity of burned fuels. The new process facilitates desulfurization.

The method uses modern pulse equipment, which has been utilized in applications related to radar modulators, particle accelerators and lasers.

“About a decade ago, the project was in the nascent stage because the pulse equipment was not nearly as efficient as it has become in recent years. Hardly anyone tried applying it for processing of petroleum. ” said Igor Pyzh, Eupelix visiting engineering consultant.

Pyzh came from the Ukraine to assist with test experiments for prospective industrial partners and collaborators in the United States.

Using available powerful pulse equipment, hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day can be processed satisfying commercial-scale refining. Pyzh says, it is just a matter ofadjusting the equipment to the kinds of processed oils. This can be done in the new Euplex lab in Illinois.

“There are also other interesting, ecologically clean applications that we are exploring together with our collaborators,” Novikov said.

The major efforts of the company are focused on applying this process to large scale petroleum refining for industrial partners in Illinois, the State of Eupelix registration, and for partners in the Ukraine, the home country of the invention.

CONTACT: Dr. Dmitri V. Novikov 
217-351-3542 Eupelix, L.L.C.

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