With the liberalisation of the home energy markets in the 1990’s, Ebico was formed (in 1998) as the UK’s first not-for-profit home energy company. We realised that the use of prepay electricity and gas meters was correlated with the lower income deciles – with such households more at risk of fuel poverty. At the time, the cost of energy purchased through prepay meters was significantly more expensive – by as much as 40% – compared with payment by Direct Debit. We realised that some of the poorest customers were, as a result, being charged the most for their home energy supplies.
To address this injustice, we launched the EquiGas & EquiPower energy plans. These were innovative and unique, with a simple tariff structure consisting of a single unit rate with no standing charge. Importantly, all our customers, irrespective of payment type, paid the same rate. This enabled the savings associated with market liberalisation to be shared fairly across the income bands.
We donated our commercial surpluses to the Ebico Trust for Sustainable Development, our charitable trust. In turn, these surpluses were used to provide community-based energy affordability projects in support of lower income households throughout Britain.
With the developing regulatory environment, we found that the simple EquiGas/Power tariff structure was becoming commercially unsustainable. So, we developed a range of energy supply contracts and took a long, hard, look at how we could continue to make home energy fairer in the UK.
Mission relaunch with social impact investing
2020 was a year of stock-taking for us. The home energy market had changed beyond all recognition from the one into which we had first ventured in 1998. The ‘Big-6’ had been reduced to just four, with the remaining big corporates no longer able, to nearly the same degree, to charge higher prices to their loyal customers. New participants in home energy supply had come, and some had gone, but competition in the market was left in a much healthier state than had been the case for most of Ebico’s first 20 years. So, Ebico needed to adapt its work to reflect market changes.