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August 27, 2008


john b

How does 1 work? Are you suggesting that if utilities companies were customer co-operatives, they'd be better-placed to cross-subsidise lower-income users...?

2 is obviously the right answer. 4 is kind-of cool as well, although I'm sceptical that people in the poorest social groups would fully understand and exploit the opportunity (as with tax credits). 3 doesn't work at all, because if you're poor then you don't have a house of your own to fit a heat pump in.


I was vague about (1) because there are so many possibilities. Being owned by customers might mean customers getting a dividend or lower prices. The point is that there'd be no "them" ripping "us" off, as "them" would be our employees, elected by us.
All I'm asking for is the left to consider alternative forms of organization. There are alternatives to the top-down state and top-down boss-capitalist firms.


Can you flesh out a little how a futures market would protect against fluctuating prices? If you bought forward your electricity needs two years in advance you would face exactly the same electricity prices just with a two year lag.


John, we can easily start with housing association and other social properties, and then move on to coercing landlords.


Is 3. a trick question to check who is still listening? Air-source heat pump heating systems have a capital cost of £7,000+, and even with increasing energy costs have a payback period of about twenty years, depending on what they replace. But the life span of the product is less than twenty years, and the initial capital cost does not include servicing costs...

Providing grants for specific types of home heating distorts the market. Grants may persuade consumers to invest in the wrong heating system for them, particularly at times when there is rapid innovation. What recourse would be available to those who were enticed into buying the wrong system? Caveat emptor doesn't seem to carry any weight at the moment.

Suggestion 4. may have some merit, but only in conjunction with 2. Poor people don't have savings and don't have the income predictability to participate in direct debit schemes that reduce the price of energy.

I have a half-baked idea that low income people should be given savings money, *in addition* to income supplements for day-to-day living. The savings money would be ring fenced (in order to pacify Daily Mail readers) for extraordinary purchases such as school clothes, energy during a cold winter or even a holiday. Would providing a savings account discourage or encourage personal saving/financial management? I confess that the idea is half-baked and can spot some flaws.

WRT 4. most people pay their fuel bills by direct debit, and most of them are in credit with the energy supplier. I am in credit by £200 with my dual supplier, so surely they should supply me with £200 worth of energy at the price when they took my money out of my bank account? Not at next month's price.

Miller 2.0

Can't agree with point 4.. If you're already poor, you will sell.


Option 4 amounts to this: allow people to buy insurance against rising energy costs. It certainly "leaves unchallenged the basic structure of capitalism".

Should it be easier to buy such insurance? Sure that would be nice. Should we force poor people to have it? I can't see a good argument for why.

Handing out futures is, of course, equivalent to handing out cash, so really falls under 2.


Note that point 1) sort of exists in Wales - Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water) is owned by customers.

Ironically, given Chris' post, it was the windfall tax in 1999 which pushed Dwr Cymru into the hands of consumers!

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