INNOVATIVE plans that could save thousands of households in Hartlepool up to £200 a year on energy bills have won the backing of senior councillors.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee has supported the Community Energy Collective Switching scheme which is set to be up and running by April.
The idea is that residents sign up to the scheme, via the council, while partner organisation IChoosr auctions the energy contract to suppliers and takes the lowest bid.
People then have the chance to see how much they could save before deciding whether to switch and IChoosr is responsible for switching suppliers, meaning less hassle for residents.
Officers say the scheme, which is in place in Holland and Belgium, works on the concept of bulk buying and the more people sign up the cheaper energy bills will be.
Local authorities across England have now started to launch similar initiatives and people in town could save hundreds of pounds depending on which tariff they are currently on.
The scheme could also generate a small income for the council through the commission for signing households up and help rescue thousands of residents from fuel poverty, with figures showing that 20.3 per cent, or 8,000 Hartlepool households suffer from fuel poverty.
Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “This is a fantastic scheme and a no-brainer as far as I can see.
“This will probably mean a good saving for the vast majority that switch.
“The sooner the better.”
Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “We are looking to start promoting this in February, ready to launch in April, for residents to benefit as quickly as possible.”
Independent councillor Paul Thompson added: “Promotion is the key to this and if we could get some form of communication out with the council tax bills that would be really helpful.”
Mrs Ogden said there are strict restrictions over what the council can send out with the bill information but added: “If we can, we will.”
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Thompson added: “I totally support it.
“Anything that we can do to save people money, especially in such a difficult financial climate, has to be welcomed.
“This is quite innovative and there is real potential for people to save some decent money.”
Independent councillor John Lauderdale added: “Hopefully there will be a financial benefit and the more people that get involved the better.”
Coun Lauderdale said he very rarely changes his energy supplier but this scheme is certainly something he would consider.
When the scheme is up and running there will be a dedicated call centre and telephone number for interested residents and the switching partner would be responsible for setting up the measurement tools for the campaign, taking details of interested residents and auctioning the energy contract.
After the auction process they will set up an agreement with the successful supplier and inform registered households of the winning bid and support those who still want to switch, via a UK helpdesk, and process applications.