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Redefining the energy company

Energy companies are becoming harder to define as their portfolios broaden. Ovo Energy aims to speed up this change of profile in the UK; offering a new platform for councils, community groups and housing associations to sell energy to local people. The company has suggested that 500 new energy suppliers could be doing business in the UK by 2020.

Local authorities have already seen the potential, with two big players announcing plans to become energy providers. Glasgow and Nottingham City Councils are joining the energy market with the ostensible aim of helping residents worried about energy costs. While in Glasgow the plan is to get renewable projects off the ground and invest in fuel poverty schemes, the Nottingham scheme is slightly more of a direct sell to the public, with plans for a high-street shop and call centre.

Elsewhere, the National Trust is dipping its toes in the waters of the energy market. It has set up and energy trading arm to tap hydropower resources, with the aim to reinvest proceeds to its staple conservation work. Footpaths have never been so zeitgeist.

There is also the suggestion that there will still be a place for the massive company in our energy future - albeit it might be a different sort of one. Google’s seemingly limitless capacity for data management, alongside significant renewable investments over the last few years has led experts to predict the rise of the firm in the energy field. In the age of smart technologies and the promise of a more fluid and interactive relationship between companies and customers, this looks pretty realistic.

So is this the end of the energy company as we know it? Well, yes and no. In more nuanced terms, it’s more of a broadening of definition.

Big Six or Smaller Six Hundred, clarifying the public’s stake in energy and revitalising our ageing infrastructure are defining issues of our age. There are many ways of doing both – so it’s a development that should be welcomed.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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