🗣 SOLARPLICITY UPDATE 🗣
On Monday I met with a representative from Solarplicity in Westminster to raise directly with them the complaints I have received from constituents about the poor service they have received from Solarplicity and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
As a matter of principal, I support the growth of renewable energy and any scheme which can reduce household utility bills. However, the aspiration of the community energy scheme and Solar panels being offered by Solarplicity and Stoke-on-Trent City Council has left too many customers and tenants feeling confused, angry and frustrated.
My discussions with Solarplicity were constructive and they acknowledged that there had been customer service issues; problems with billing and they had not met the expectations of consumers in a way they would have liked. They have also agreed to review all of the complaints raised with me and my office will be continuing to work on the specific cases raised by individuals and constituents who have a case with me can expect to receive an update soon.
Solarplicity also shared with me their plans for improving Customer Service for Stoke-on-Trent customers. Broadly, I believe these are to be welcomed but their success will only be known once they have been implemented, tried and tested.
However, clearly there still exists a large number of unresolved issues and confidence in the scheme is not great. So, with my colleague Ruth Smeeth, we wrote yesterday to Council Leader Abi Brown with the following simple requests, which we believe would go a long way to improving some of the problems:
1) A freeze on the partnership between the Council, their tenants and Solarplicity on any more sign-ups to either the community energy scheme or the installation of solar panels until the new customer service arrangements by Solarplicity have been put in place and that those arrangements are independently audited to ensure these problems can not arise again.
2) That Stoke-on-Trent City Council consider underwriting the 25 year contracts for the installation of Solar Panels for those tenants who wish to leave Solarplicity altogether. In exchange for taking over the contract, the City Council should use the energy generated to either off-set its own energy consumption costs or collect the feed-in tariff for the energy generated and put straight into the national grid.
3) The City Council establishes a Stoke-on-Trent Solarplicity Tenants forum and that the Council take a greater role in acting on behalf of their tenants who continue to experience problems with Solarplicity and that the City Council, through its duty of care requirements to vulnerable people and their own tenants, act as liaison between those who need help and the energy provider.
I would encourage any resident who has not already been in touch but who is experiencing problems to be in touch with my office and we will do all we can to assist and in the meantime I will continue speaking with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Solarplicity to resolve cases and improve the system and I am seeking a meeting with OfGEM (the Energy Regulator) to ensure we can learn the necessary valuable lessons.