Ofgem has launched an investigation into the Community Energy Scheme (CES) set up in 2018 with Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
The CES scheme is designed to encourage the installation of photovoltaic solar panels on the roofs of social housing in Stoke and to sell the electricity from these panels to tenants. The tenants were told they could get cheap electricity from the scheme if they let the installations go ahead.
But Ofgem is now investigating whether CES violated consumer protection rules and how it treated its customers.
CES was originally run between Stoke Council and energy supplier Solarplicity until the supplier went bankrupt in 2019.
A petition was signed by local residents who complained about a lack of transparency in the scheme, saying they had not been told they were entering into a 25-year deal. The Energy Ombudsman received more than 580 complaints about Solarplicity in July 2019 alone, the month before it ceased trading.
Ofgem said: “Ofgem has launched an investigation into Community Energy Scheme UK’s sales and customer service practices. Ofgem’s investigation covers sales practices and solar panel installations for social rental housing in Stoke-on-Trent. The investigation will examine whether the company is complying with consumer protection rules. has violated.”
It added that the initiation of the investigation did not necessarily imply that they had already made findings of non-compliance.
A CES spokesperson said: “We are committed to continuous improvement and we have always provided Ofgem with information voluntarily.”
“We, along with the city government, will continue to work with and assist Ofgem during this investigation. As a company, we devote significant time and resources to ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations, including the review of our literature and contracts by multiple attorneys, along with robust audit and quality assurance controls 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 everyone involved to ensure the process is as clear and useful as possible .”
Earlier this week, Ofgem ordered Symbio Energy to pay around £450,000 for failing to pay the government’s Feed in Tariff scheme. The scheme provides for payments to owners of small-scale renewable energy producers and is financed through mandatory levies on suppliers. If Symbio does not follow the rules, it could have its license revoked, Ofgem said, and could launch 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 produced from clean wind and solar energy.