rooftop solar panel

Ofgem launches investigation into solar power scheme

Image credit: Dreamstime

Ofgem has launched an investigation into the Community Energy Scheme (CES) which was set up in 2018 with Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The CES scheme was designed to boost the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on Stoke’s social housing roofs and sell the electricity from these panels to the tenants. The tenants were told that they could access cheap electricity from the scheme if they allowed the installations to go ahead.

But Ofgem is now looking into whether CES breached consumer protection rules and how it treated its customers.

CES was originally run between Stoke Council and energy supplier Solarplicity until the supplier went bust in 2019.

A petition was signed by local residents who complained about a lack of transparency in the scheme as they said they were not told that they were entering into a 25-year agreement. The Energy Ombudsman received more than 580 complaints about Solarplicity in July 2019 alone, the month before it ceased to trade.

Ofgem said: “Ofgem has launched an investigation into Community Energy Scheme UK’s sales and customer service practices. Ofgem’s investigation is in relation to sales practices, and solar panel installations, for social housing tenants in Stoke-on-Trent. The investigation will examine whether the company breached consumer protection rules.”

It added that the opening of the investigation did not necessarily imply that they had already made findings about non-compliance.

A spokesperson for CES said: “We are committed to continuous improvement and we have always voluntarily provided Ofgem with information.”

“We, along with the city council, will continue to work with and assist Ofgem during this investigation. As a company, we devote considerable time and resource to ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations, which includes the review of our literature and contracts by multiple lawyers, along with robust audit and quality assurance checks throughout the customer experience.”

“We are proud to provide a clean energy service that ensures customers always receive the lowest market price for their energy use and we are committed to working with all of those involved to make sure that the process is as clear and helpful as possible.”

Earlier this week, Ofgem ordered Symbio Energy to pay around £450,000 for failing to pay into the Government’s Feed in Tariff scheme. The scheme provides payments to owners of small-scale renewable energy generators, and is funded through compulsory levies on suppliers. If Symbio fails to comply, it could end up having its licence revoked, Ofgem said, and it may open a formal investigation into the non-compliance.

In July, an analysis found that the UK ranks sixth in the world for the share of its electricity that is produced from clean wind and solar power.

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