Last week was Robin Hood Energy’s third birthday and this feels like an appropriate time to reflect on why Nottingham City Council took the ambitious decision to set it up and recognise what the company has achieved in such a short space of time.
The idea of Robin Hood Energy was born out of the necessity to tackle fuel poverty in Nottingham. In 2010, 21.8% of people in our city were living in fuel poverty meaning that they have required fuel costs that are above average and were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line. As a council we had worked for a number of years trying to tackle this through improving the energy efficiency of homes across the city by installing external wall insulation on 6000 properties, as well as running campaigns that encouraged residents to switch suppliers. This could never change the fact though that the energy market is dominated by six big companies that run a monopoly and put shareholder profits before people.
In 2015 we committed ourselves to tackle fuel poverty by setting up a not-for-profit energy company to sell energy at the lowest possible price to Nottingham people to take on the Big Six. Robin Hood Energy was the first publically owned energy company in the UK for more than 30 years. The company now has 115,000 customers and continues to grow, made £250,000 of surplus faster than most of its closest competitors, is bringing in money to Nottingham City Council by paying back its start-up loan at a commercial rate and now sources all its energy from renewables.
Perhaps most significantly, Robin Hood Energy has changed the market with regards to pre-payment meters. Robin Hood Energy introduced Britain’s first competitively priced gas and electricity prepayment tariff for pay-as-you-go customers – those who are most likely to face fuel poverty. The whole energy market followed our lead and even Ofgem has now introduced a prepayments tariff “price cap”.
As of February 2017, the number of households in fuel poverty in Nottingham was 12%, Though that is a significant improvement on the figure eight years ago, there is clearly still more to do. As Robin Hood Energy gains more customers, the cheaper it can make prices for Nottingham people and I am the confident that is what will happen going forward. Its success would no doubt have made one of its founders, Councillor Alan Clark, very proud, who was pivotal in its creation. The company continues to go from strength to strength while fulfilling its purpose of tackling fuel poverty in Nottingham.