Posted by keith on February 13th, 2008
When an energy company, especially one that also generates electricity, urges its customers to use less of its product then my heckles are immediately up. One or two energy companies – the small ones, mind – see being environmentally friendlier as good sense, not just from a business point of view; but it’s the big ones, Duke Energy, RWE Group, BG, EDF Energy, who really make me suspicious when they talk of “saving energy”.
To put things in a nutshell, some companies are being forced to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as part of energy trading schemes the countries they operate in have signed up to. Trading greenhouse gases is not something I advocate – it just pushes the pollution somewhere else, and merely incorporates something that should be a global right – namely the right not to have your environment destroyed. The same companies also have to be seen to be doing the “right thing”, after all, who wants to be seen as a big polluter in a dying world?
But the trick is not to actually do anything useful, but instead merely to seem to be doing something useful. Like encouraging your customers to save energy. In the case of EDF Energy, the vast majority of their UK electricity comes from coal, despite what they imply on their web site. They have two 2GW coal-fired stations here and here. They also have a scheme which is apparently intended to encourage customers to reduce their emissions. Here’s how it works:
1) Use EDF Energy’s products for a year and record your energy usage through billing.
2) Whoops, first you have to be a Nectar Card holder. Nectar is a reward card, that allows participating companies to know everything about your buying habits.
3) When your year has finished, you stay with EDF Energy for another year and record your energy use through billing.
4) After that year, if you have reduced your energy consumption at all, even by just one unit, then you get lots of Nectar Points.
5) If you reduce your energy consumption by 50% then you get no more rewards than if you hardly reduce your consumption at all.
The benefit to the customer is…hmm! not really sure here. Oh, yes, 1000 Nectar Points. I tried to find out what you can get for 1000 Nectar Points, and really struggled – even The Da Vinci Code costs 1,700 points. I think you get £5 off at Sainsburys for all your hard work. Well done!
The benefit to EDF Energy is:
1) They have a guaranteed customer for 2 years, which is vital in a dynamic market.
2) They don’t lose on energy costs because the customer only has to reduce consumption by 1 unit
3) They get to sell information about you to 3rd parties. I’m not lying, this is in their terms and conditions:
“By registering and accepting these Rules, you are also agreeing to allow EDF Energy to use, disclose and share with other relevant companies (including LMUK) all information relating to you which is reasonably required for the purposes of registering you, managing and properly operating this Scheme” (from https://www.edfenergy.com/readreducereward/showTermsAndConditions.do)
So, do EDF really care about reducing greenhouse gases?
What do you think?