Pioneering co-operative to eliminate fuel poverty in Cornwall
A people-driven co-operative to end fuel poverty, improve health and cut energy bills across the board will be launched in Cornwall today by Government minister Ed Davey.
Cornwall Together is an umbrella organisation that aims to bulk-purchase electricity, gas and heating oil and share the savings with consumers. The initiative could deliver up to £3.7million worth of savings to Cornish households and businesses.
A partnership made up of Cornwall Council, Cornwall NHS, Unison, Eden and St Austell Brewery, Cornwall Together initially plans to buy fuel at low prices and pass on the discounts to its employees. The longer-term vision is to include a large number of organisations and individuals in the scheme and eventually roll it out beyond Cornwall.
Speaking ahead of today's launch at the Eden Project, Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said: "Cornwall Together is breaking the mould in two ways. First, the extent of collaboration behind the scheme shows that it's not just the usual suspects that can play an active part in the energy market. And second I applaud the explicit aim of extending the benefits of collective switching to the most vulnerable householders."
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A long-time supporter of collective purchasing, Mr Davey added: "I want clubbing together to buy and save energy to become commonplace and I am excited to see schemes like this setting an example for others up and down the country."
Cornwall Council, Cornwall NHS, Eden and St Austell Brewery together employ almost 50,000 people. Every member of staff could see their fuel bills cut by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent.
Cornwall Together – which is working with Community Buying Unlimited, Rural Community Council and Community Energy Plus – will act as the sole bulk-buying contact for energy companies to negotiate with, switching suppliers whenever a better deal can be found. It is thought to be the first time an entire region has united as a community to buy energy.
The scheme was the brainchild of Eden energy manager Matt Hastings, who said: "The idea of the whole of Cornwall joining forces to negotiate as a single unit is revolutionary. This is an exciting opportunity to unite Cornwall and reduce energy bills for tens of thousands of people."
Mr Hastings, who was recently named UK Energy Manager of the Year, added: "Cornish households spend around £1.2bn on energy per year and we estimate potential savings of £3.7m could be made, most of which would likely be put back into the Cornish economy."
As part of the scheme's social purpose, it will invest 10 per cent of the revenue generated from each energy switch into a fund to address fuel poverty. Cornwall Together will then seek match-funding from other organisations.
Felicity Owen, director of public health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, welcomed the initiative, stating: "What excites us about this is its community focus and the potential to reduce fuel poverty, which can lead to excess deaths in winter and contribute to other health conditions. We support it wholeheartedly."
Lucy Darch, director of energy at uSwitch.com, described the scheme as a "complete game changer" which had the potential of encouraging more people to change suppliers.
"Six in ten households have never switched and three quarters of people are sitting on old fashioned and expensive standard tariffs," she said.
"A group purchasing scheme targeted at these people and giving them the support and confidence they need to switch could be a huge boost to competition and the local economy."