As the 1st October deadline for electricity suppliers to publish their Fuel Mix for 2017-18 approaches and we start updating the data on this site, it is worth looking at the suppliers’ efforts last year to meet one of their licence conditions. Our findings suggest that neither the industry nor its regulator have much regard for this consumer right.
Since 2005, UK electricity suppliers have had to provide customers with details of the mix of fuels used to produce the electricity supplied to them. The fuel mix must also to be included on marketing material and websites.
This aid to consumer choice was introduced by The Electricity (Fuel Mix Disclosure) Regulations 2005, in line with the European Union’s Internal Market in Electricity Directive, 2004.
Suppliers calculate their fuel mix by obtaining generator declarations for coal, gas and nuclear and guarantees of origin for renewables.
Electricity supplied over and above that for which a supplier has declarations and guarantees is assigned a fuel mix known as the residual fuel mix – basically what’s left over from the GB average fuel mix once all the electricity with declarations and guarantees has been totalled up. The GB average and residual figures are calculated by the government department responsible for energy, currently the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
However, suppliers seem to be under no obligation to obtain generator declarations, and when a supplier the size of e.on uses the residual fuel mix as their published fuel mix, effectively saying “we’ve no idea where any of our electricity comes from”, then the whole concept of supplier fuel mix disclosure is undermined.
If anyone at Ofgem, the regulator responsible for policing supplier fuel mix disclosure data, cares about this, there are no outward signs.
Last year’s failings
For 2016-17, more than a third of suppliers (39%) had the residual fuel mix values as their published fuel mix, while another two gave a fuel mix matching the GB average – either unlikely coincidence, a misunderstanding of the regulations not corrected by Ofgem, or an obscure part of the regulations we’ve not seen.
In addition, published fuel mix data, from large as well as small suppliers, is littered with inaccuracies, and nobody at BEIS or Ofgem seems bothered.
Indeed, the way BEIS publishes the data from which suppliers produce comparisons between their fuel mix and the GB average contributes to these inaccuracies.
The headline figures are for residual fuel mix, and we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve seen these figures mistakenly used by suppliers as the GB average in comparisons with their own fuel mix.
BEIS also gives a figure for high-level nuclear waste (0.007 g/kWh in 2016-17) which many suppliers publish as the GB average. However, the BEIS figure needs to be adjusted for the percentage of nuclear in the average fuel mix.
We found that more than half of suppliers (61%) published incomplete or inaccurate information in their fuel mix data for 2016-17, including a Big Six supplier (Scottish Power) mis-stating the GB average nuclear waste figure, making their own waste figure in comparative terms look five times better than it was.
Less than a third of suppliers (31%) published complete fuel mix data that wasn’t just the residual or GB average fuel mix.
Errors and omissions in published Fuel Mix are not new, but with so many new, small entrants to electricity supply, and with one of the Big Six (e.on) seemingly opting out of at least the intent of the obligation, published fuel mix data is increasingly unreliable or misleading.
Another impact of having so many new entrants is the number of suppliers without a published fuel mix. The fuel mix year runs April to March and only companies supplying for the whole year need to publish fuel mix data, and not until October. A company starting supplying electricity on 2nd April 2018 would not be obliged to publish any fuel mix data till October 2020. And in reality, if they delayed till into 2021 there would be no sanction from Ofgem.
It has been clear for a while that fuel mix declarations are something many suppliers do not much care for nor government and the regulators much care about.
Already falling short of the intent, of the EU if not the UK government, to give consumers information about the electricity they are buying, what chance this UK consumer right surviving Brexit in any meaningful form?
One positive for consumers
For consumers looking to avoid nuclear or fossil fuels, it’s not all bad news. Several recent entrants are supplying 100% renewables electricity, joining established renewables suppliers and others which have moved to being 100% renewables, so there is plenty of choice. And being a 100% renewables supplier is a marketing plus that those suppliers will let you know about regardless of what happens to the fuel mix disclosure regulations.
Suppliers with errors or omissions in Fuel Mix data for 2016-17 as published on their websites at the time information was retrieved by us, between October ’17 and September ’18:
Affect Energy, Angelic Energy, Avro Energy, Bulb, Co-operative Energy, Engie, Enstroga, First Utility, Flow Energy, Gnergy, Good Energy, Great North Energy, Green Star Energy, Iresa Energy, iSupply, Leccy, Octopus Energy, Our Power, Places for People, Powershop, Robin Hood Energy, Scottish Power, Spark, The Energy Deal, Tonik Energy, Utilita, White Rose Energy, Your Energy Sussex.
It may seem hypocritical to criticise suppliers for errors in their data while ourselves giving no guarantee that the information we publish is accurate or complete. But this site is run on a voluntary basis with no support from the industry or government. If you notice any errors or omissions in our data, please do let us know. And if you’d like to help support the site financially, you can donate using PayPal by clicking the button below (credit card payments can be made without a PayPal account).