Working together the Cornish can save money on fuel bills
A few days ago we saw the launch of the second round of the Cornwall Together project, which enables people in the county to club together to negotiate cheaper energy bills. In the last round, members who switched energy providers saved an average of £133 and this time we aim to get people an even better deal.
There have been other collective-switching schemes but none quite like Cornwall Together. No one has ever sought to engage a county as a whole before and no one has set up a switching initiative with such a strong emphasis on social cohesion, tackling fuel poverty and the public health issues that come with it. Cornwall Together has and will continue to invest 10% of the revenue generated from each energy switch into a fund which will address fuel poverty in Cornwall.
We have listened to our members and learned lessons from the first round and this time we are offering people the opportunity to see the savings they stand to make up front.
Anyone interested in joining can sign up and switch from now until March 17. Whenever you choose to do it, the more people who switch, the more everyone saves.
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Cornwall Together started with an idea from the Eden Project, the idea snowballed as partners such as energyshare, Cornwall Council, the NHS, the Citizens' Advice Bureau, Community Energy Plus, St Austell Brewery and many more came on board. The switching side of things is handled by uSwitch, the independent price comparison and switching service.
So why do we need Cornwall Together? Energy bills have risen by more than £700 on average since 2004, an increase of 140%. As the power supply gets squeezed, prices will continue to rise. According to the Committee on Climate Change, energy bills could go up by as much as £600 as we head into the next few decades of uncertainty.
A recent warning from Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan predicts that closure of ageing power stations could significantly reduce the UK's production capacity and further increase prices.
Recent price rises are likely to push an additional 300,000 people in the UK into fuel poverty. We have been sleepwalking into this crisis for years and we believe it will continue to get worse if we don't try and address this problem together.
But, while we're passionate about saving people money on their bills, Cornwall Together's ambition reaches far beyond this – taking the project national and ultimately starting a process of remodelling the relationship between people and large corporations.
Cornwall Together aims to encourage people to change the way we buy goods and services, starting with energy. If we can engage people around the county to join together to switch their energy provider, why not apply this thinking to other things we buy? Ultimately, we aim to help strengthen communities while saving people money.
Cornwall Together is just the beginning of a hugely powerful national buying group, UK Together. UK Together is coordinating negotiation with energy companies on behalf of groups in Exeter, Scotland, Birmingham and Solihull as well as Cornwall, meaning that joining Cornwall Together instantly makes you part of a powerful national buying group.
UK Together is negotiating on behalf of these regional groups as a single unit, a powerful group made up of a potential 1.4m households. As the project grows and if more regions sign up, the knock-on effect will be even cheaper bills for everyone. UK Together has the potential to change the way we buy goods and services and it all came from an idea formed in Cornwall.
After a successful first pilot phase, the Department of Energy and Climate Change saw the value of the project and awarded us £895,000 as part of the department's Cheaper Energy Together competition to make the second round even bigger and better.
For Cornwall to win this amount showcases the national importance of what we are doing.
This money will be used to maximise switching around Cornwall through a comprehensive awareness campaign that will see Cornwall Together people on the ground, discussing energy with people in their communities.
Cornwall Together – and UK Together for those on the other side of the Tamar – aims to be completely inclusive. There is no obligation to switch and it costs nothing. For many, energy is a daunting subject but by joining Cornwall Together you can be confident that the switching process will be straightforward and you'll be on one of the best energy deals available.
Some days we feel like we can take on the world, single-handedly but it's not always realistic. The fact is when we join forces, we're stronger and the more of us there are, the more influence we can have on the things that matter.
Matt Hastings is programme manager of Cornwall Together and UK Together and energy manager at the Eden Project