On Wednesday 4 May, Edelman hosted its Energy Trust Barometer Breakfast in front of a high-level audience of energy industry executives and communicators.
Ahead of June’s publication of the Competition and Market Authority’s final report on its investigation into the UK energy market, the event focused on “Building Consumer Trust in the Energy Market.” It brought together a panel of experts to discuss the issue:
Audrey Gallacher, Director of Energy Supply, Energy UK
Dermot Nolan, Chief Executive, Ofgem
Peter Atherton, Managing Director, Jefferies
Andrew Mitchell, Group Director for Energy, Edelman
Nolan said the energy industry was at a “point of inflexion,” highlighting the need to put power in the “hands of consumers.”
Given the current lack of public trust there is a narrow window of opportunity to fix the energy market, Nolan said, making clear his conviction that it is in energy companies’ interests to make competition work.
He left the audience in no doubt that the energy industry has five years to sort out the issues that have aggravated consumers in the recent past, including poor customer service and high charges.
The smart meter rollout is chance for energy companies to rebuild trust among consumers through more accurate metering and billing, Nolan said.
Peter Atherton, Managing Director for Utilities at Jeffries, argued that the energy industry has not delivered for consumers and that it needed to reevaluate its approach fundamentally.
He questioned why the industry failed to see consumer dissatisfaction coming in spite of the evidence of poor customer service and rising energy prices.
Atherton also talked about the smart meter rollout arguing that an expensive rollout that is “forced upon” consumers will potentially erode trust in the industry further and that a voluntary take-up would drive trust more effectively.
Audrey Gallacher, representing the energy trade association, Energy UK, spoke of the progress the energy industry has made in rebuilding trust over the past few years pointing out the positive part that technology in the form of smart meters can play.
Attendees at the event were also presented with the key findings from Edelman’s 2016 Energy Trust Barometer – the firm’s annual trust and credibility survey that delves deep into attitudes towards business and politics based on interviews with more than 33,000 people from 28 countries.
This year’s central finding is that energy companies must improve transparency and reassure audiences that they are safe guardians of customer data if they are to win public confidence at a turbulent time for the industry.
Edelman believes the rise in global trust for energy shows a growing awareness of its power to drive prosperity and enhance quality of life. The survey was carried out in the run-up to December’s COP21 deal in Paris which set an aspirational tone for the industry’s future.
The event ended with a lively Q&A session that drew questions from audience members representing a cross-section of the domestic energy industry. Following the event, we asked our panel of experts to share their thoughts: