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STUC 2014 Dundee

Taking profit out of energy would benefit us all

Willie Docherty
Willie Docherty

Shifting away from a profit driven big business model for energy supply could move us towards a system geared at efficient energy use rather than shareholder value – which would benefit all of us, and the planet, UNISON's Willie Docherty told the STUC.

He was backing a North Lanarkshire TUC motion calling for public ownership of the big six energy companies due to "successive governments' failure to control them."

Wllie said UNISON was supporting the motion but that didn't mean the union

doesn't have a few problems with it. The way this motion was written points to one of the 'real problems with the way our energy system works'.

"There is a complete lack of transparency in the energy market – it makes accusations of their being a cartel very easy to make... but almost impossible to prove or disprove", said Willie.

"The House of Commons Energy Select Committee hit the nail on the head in a recent report as they said; 'Despite huge turnovers, and in some cases large profits, the six largest energy companies have made significantly different levels of profit and loss between the supply and generation parts of their business.' The actual level of profit in, for example, the energy supply arm is therefore difficult to establish."

"Greater transparency is urgently needed to reassure consumers that high energy prices are not fuelling excessive profits", said Willie.

He slammed Ofgem for falling down on the job of regulation the companies.

"There have been some welcome proposals from the labour party about reviewing the operation of the energy market, enforcing transparency and replacing Ofgem with a body they say will do the job properly, which are a start.

"The Scottish government meanwhile really don’t have much to say about the UK energy market except that they want to be part of it. Really Congress they need to do better and we should be putting pressure on them on this issue", said Willie.

"We should, as this motion calls for, be looking at public ownership of energy. But in doing so we should show a degree of imagination and willingness to learn from others", said Willie as he pointed to locally owned coops like in Germany or even local government involvement as happens across Europe.

Date 14 April 2014

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