Stephen Fitzpatrick is a changed man. The famously feisty founder of Ovo Energy, who once used a House of Commons hearing into energy prices to bash his “big six” rivals for rampant overcharging, claims he is done picking fights. “There was an impulse early on to be a bit more combative,” he says, doing his best to strike a statesmanlike tone. “But as we have progressed as a company, we are less so. There are 1,000 things we can get better at. If others want to sling mud, I’m happy to ignore it.” Regardless of what the CMA does or does not do, the old energy model, centred around a few companies that produced power from giant fossil-fuelled plants and then sold it on to disengaged customers who had few alternatives, is crumbling. Cheap solar panels, in-home batteries, climate-change laws, smartphones and appliances have all turned the industry on its head. Ovo is at the front of the pack of young Turks seeking to lay waste to the old guard. These days, more than 40 suppliers offer gas and power in Britain. The big six utilities — Eon, SSE, EDF, British Gas, Scottish Power and Npower — have seen their market share crater, from 99% five years ago to just 83%. They have written off tens of billions as they have shut old coal plants. Last year Centrica, owner of the British Gas, the biggest energy supplier in the land, plunged to a £2.3bn loss. Fitzpatrick once told this newspaper that the incumbents were on the brink of their “Kodak moment”, when digital photography swept away an iconic brand.
Times 26th June 2016 read more »