07 June 2001 | Liam O'Brien
Commercial energy users are being overcharged millions of pounds on their electricity bills by suppliers because of inaccurate meter readings.
Jonathan Guy, operations manager at energy consultant John Hall Associates, told SM: "Every single client we have has been affected by this and in the main it is affecting all sizes of clients. They are receiving their bills only to find that they are many tens of thousands of pounds out."
Don McGarrigle, former chairman of the Major Energy Users' Council and now a consultant, said the billing irregularities were becoming a big issue. "Between reading the meter and the billing something is going seriously wrong," he said.
The problem stems from the operation of the new public registration system (PRS), which has been introduced in stages since October and effectively "unbundled" the meter reading business from the suppliers.
PRS allows private "data aggregators" to read the meters of commercial users remotely and process the readings for billing. "I believe the readers do not have the resources to read all the meters and are using perceived company profiles of consumption," said Martin Rawlings, deputy chairman of the CIPS energy committee.
Users of less than 100kW a year should ensure that their reader and supplier are using a standard consumption profile from the Electricity Association. Users of up to 500kW should have agreed a profile with their supplier, while those using more than 500kW can legally oblige their supplier to give them half-hourly read-outs.
Energy regulator Ofgem said it was looking into the problem.