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Bristol Energy & Robin Hood Energy Go Tits Up!

January 14, 2021

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Joe Public

 

Back in 2016, Bristol City Council set up Bristol Energy, the first municipal energy company in the South West and one of the first in the country, amidst grand hopes:

 

 

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Bristol Energy, the first municipal energy company in the South West and one of the first in the country, is officially open for business. The energy supply company was created by Bristol City Council in 2015 to be a force for social good.  It is leading the way as a new model of energy company that contributes to the wellbeing of local communities.

With a fundamental belief in social responsibility, Bristol Energy will reinvest profits back into its founding city, supporting council services to citizens and community projects. The company is looking to support local renewable energy generators and to link with initiatives with a shared ethos across the city and region.

Managing Director, Peter Haigh, said: “This is a new era for the sector, and Bristol Energy is proud to set itself apart from other energy companies as a force for social good. We believe that energy customers, businesses and communities deserve something better, now and into the future – and this means doing things differently. I really believe people will want to get behind us. We have to pay energy bills anyway, so why not pay them to a company that will spend the profits on local services and projects?

“Our growing Bristol Energy team has worked incredibly hard to get us to the point where people can make a no-fuss switch to us through our website. One of our next steps will be to find ways to help the least advantaged energy consumers through our products and services and to build partnerships with local renewable generators. In the longer term, I can’t wait to see the difference our profits will make to local Bristol communities.”

https://news.bristol.gov.uk/news/new-energy-supplier-bristol-energy-is-in-it-for-the-social-good

 

What could possibly go wrong? Green energy, a social conscience, reinvesting profits back into the community?

Four years later, however, the Council is nursing losses of £40m, and have been forced to sell the customer base on the cheap.

 

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A troubled council-owned energy company revealed a £14.8m loss in its latest annual report.

Bristol Energy, sold off by Bristol City Council last year, made the losses in the year up to March 2020.

The council’s Conservative group leader, Mark Weston, said the figures, which take the overall losses to around £40m, were "truly shocking".

It was revealed last year that the company’s boss was given a nearly £95,000 payout when he left.

The annual report showed Bristol Energy, which was set up in 2015 before the current Labour administration took over, posted an adjusted operating loss of £8.5m in the year up to 31 March 2020.

Released on 10 January, the report said that figure does not take into account just under £3.3m in "bad debt" and other costs, such as £219,000 for restructuring.

When these extra costs are included, the official operating loss is £13.26m, and when interest and tax are taken into account, the total loss was £14.8m.

"The directors do not recommend the payment of a dividend," the report said, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Bristol Energy, which was set up to provide ethically-sourced and low-cost energy, sold its domestic and business accounts in the autumn of 2020.

The city council has so far invested £37.5m in the business, which has posted losses above £10m every year since 2018, despite growing its customer base.

‘Millions squandered’

Mr Weston said he suspected the final losses would be "something north of £50m".

"The squandering of tens of millions of pounds of public funds on this project, long after it should have been terminated, represents an unparalleled example in our city of poor political judgement and financial mismanagement," he said.

Bristol City Council has asked its own auditors Grant Thornton to find out the full extent of the cost to council taxpayers of setting up and running the company.

The council has been contacted for comment.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-55622656

 

There is no evidence that Bristol Energy actually sold at less than market rates. (Current prices of the now sold company are over 10% dearer than my deal, which is only three months old).

Meanwhile a similar story has been emerging in Nottingham, where council owned Robin Hood Energy has just gone into administration, leaving Nottingham council taxpayers on the hook for £38m:

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The company set up by Nottingham City Council to challenge the ‘big six’ energy firms has been placed into administration.

The Robin Hood Energy (RHE) customer base has been sold to Centrica – owned by British Gas, one of the ‘big six’, and administrators Deloitte is now in charge of the firm.

An outstanding £12.5 million owed for green taxes known as Renewable Obligations Certificates (ROCs), to energy regulator OFGEM, is expected to be spread across the rest of the energy market.

This effectively means all other consumers – from companies with no link to RHE – will foot the bill.

Labour-controlled Nottingham City Council has said it expects its total losses to be £38 million from the company.

It had been suggested that the £12.5 million would be taken by administrators from the amount Nottingham City Council receives from the sale, meaning Nottingham taxpayers would pay the bill.

But the city council says it expects the bill to be ‘mutualised’ from the rest of the energy market.

Speaking on Monday, January 11, during a meeting of the full council, Councillor Sam Webster was asked by Councillor Kevin Clarke, leader of the Clifton Independents, about the £12.5 million payment.

https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/local-news/robin-hood-energy-goes-administration-4880970

 

As with Bristol Energy, Robin Hood boasted about 100% green electricity and a social conscience. Particularly ironic, given that Nottingham Council have even refused to pay the £12.5m owing for green subsidies, the ROCs which all energy suppliers have to pay.

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https://robinhoodenergy.co.uk/business/homepage 

 

 

We keep being told how cheap renewable energy is. Funny how Bristol and Nottingham City Councils lost a fortune trying to flog it!

61 Comments
  1. January 14, 2021 12:33 pm

    What on earth is “ethical energy”

    • Mad Mike permalink
      January 14, 2021 12:40 pm

      It can mean anything you like when you are virtue signalling

    • January 14, 2021 12:52 pm

      Simply these are weasel words which are put out there, no one objects to them because on the face of it we think “well who wants unethical energy” but once it becomes accepted terminology just watch it get weaponised. Suddenly energy from fossil fuels will be labelled unethical or energy from a predominantly white country will be unethical. Simply it is just one more weaponised term we have allowed to infect the wonderful English language which has no good intentions behind it. Anyone using such a term and you can be sure the virtual signalling pwannet thavers will use it at best have no clue what it means. It will be adopted as just more pointless way for them to fill the vacuum when they spout twaddle . Just watch out for the weaponizing of it however.

      • January 14, 2021 1:18 pm

        But somehow green energy will still be ethical even when it requires rare earth elements mined by child labor

      • January 14, 2021 2:27 pm

        Roger

        I frequently make this point but it seems to be one which just runs off peoples backs. Presumably child slavery , ruination of the environment all under the auspices of (often) China is not as bad as evil CO2

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 15, 2021 9:38 am

      Energy that provides even the poorest people with cheap, secure, reliable and safe energy whilst fairly rewarding those who take a risk to provide such energy.

      Energy that makes everybody better off.

  2. Mad Mike permalink
    January 14, 2021 12:39 pm

    Councils should not run businesses full stop. They don’t have the expertise nor experience in the fields they enter. Anyone with any sense can see that an organisation that runs it’s services the way most of the councils do are hardly likely to run a commercial venture any better.

    The next scandal, which has already partially been exposed, is their purchase of shopping centres and other commercial premises when everybody else was exiting the market.

    • ianprsy permalink
      January 14, 2021 1:09 pm

      Exactly. Ours, even though a one-party state type dies the basics very well. If only they stuvk to thst principle.

    • Penda100 permalink
      January 14, 2021 2:29 pm

      It was a sad day when the doctrine of ultra vires was abandoned.

    • Keitho permalink
      January 14, 2021 5:22 pm

      It isn’t their money so they have no skin in the game. Whether it is local government or central government these adventures always fail. The normal market stimuli don’t apply because politics is more important.

      That is the problem as well as the employees are always taken on for reasons other than competence.

    • Duker permalink
      January 14, 2021 9:15 pm

      Its not exactly run by the Councillors and council staff – it wouldnt last 6 months- but they set it up as a commercial entity and bring in experienced commercial managers.
      But their business model from the start is really at the high price- ethical branding for the dual income no kids urban demographic but are exposed to the volatile swings of the spot price market for their wholesale costs and high marketing costs to gain market share and keep it once householder realise there is kudos from a branded electric vehicle parked in the driveway but the power supplier is invisible to neighbours/social circle.
      The US has long had municipal power suppliers , but they are often generators as well. eg Los Angeles with 7.8GW of generating capacity, most contracted and some owned power stations
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Department_of_Water_and_Power
      In my city the lines company is 75% owned directly by a trust who pay dividends directly to households, in my case thats 2-3 months of the power bill and the supplier choice is still there. Yes they own and operate electric lines ( but not the Grid) in a wider area who arent treated as shareholders, wise management meant they bought up other municipal lines companies.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 15, 2021 9:40 am

      The idea that the mediocre people with little or no relevant experience who end up working for councils should be making these sorts of investments is absurd. That they do so with taxpayers money is beyond belief.

  3. Jackington permalink
    January 14, 2021 12:39 pm

    The old sayings are the best e.g. All that glitters is not gold -What chumps they are – plenty more to come!

    • January 14, 2021 12:44 pm

      Spending other people’s money! I was shocked when the financial crash happened how many local authorities and fire brigade ambulance services etc had speculative investments in Iceland. These were not pension funds. My immediate reaction was “this is criminal negligence” on top of misappropriating funds which they had been given for specific reasons. I thought hang on they are whining about not having enough money but they have money to spare to play the markets for which you can be sure they had highly paid analysts on the payrole. I do not see any argument for such bodies doing anything except providing the basic services for which they receive money. Outside of that they have no business whatsoever

      • January 14, 2021 12:54 pm

        I forgot to ask. It is the politicising of everything. To add the word ethical suddenly adds a political dimension. That is deliberate

      • patrick healy permalink
        January 14, 2021 7:56 pm

        Pardonme……
        Like the Scottish Western Isles KOONCIL who robbed their ‘subjects’ of – what was it 20 million or so – which they invested in Iceland.
        Years later all is forgotten as it was charged to the tax payer.

  4. cajwbroomhill permalink
    January 14, 2021 12:45 pm

    All the predictably utterly wasteful and completely avoidable fads of dependence on wind and water power as the mainstays of energy production explain these failures.
    The failure to apply vital “due diligence” explains the rot of of these totally stupid developments.

  5. ThinkingScientist permalink
    January 14, 2021 1:06 pm

    Can’t help smirking about the £12.5 million in green subsidies. Do they get it now? Has the penny dropped for the naive idiots that did this, and for the ill-informed public that go along with the green energy being cheaper nonsense?

    Renewable is not competitive and that fact is hidden by a smokescreen inside a hall of mirrors. Wake up public! You are being fleeced.

    • ianprsy permalink
      January 14, 2021 1:11 pm

      The answer to your questions s NO. They have national government policy for cover.

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    January 14, 2021 1:08 pm

    As we know the BBC has generously and benignly volunteered its services to take over the ‘education’ of our country’s children.

    Surprise, surprise, today’s BBC2 Bitesize Daily – Science Week includes:

    The Big Read – The Extraordinary Life of Greta Thunberg

    • Malcolm Skipper permalink
      January 14, 2021 2:17 pm

      How to break that pesky first law of thermodynamics. Quote –

      BBC2 Bitesize Daily

      Y9 (13/14 year old) Geography Site “Funky designs for creating renewable energy”

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 14, 2021 2:37 pm

      I find it great that so many Council gritting services name their lorries ‘Gritter Thunberg’.

    • January 14, 2021 7:45 pm

      I watched that with mounting disbelief. I did however have the hopeful thought that with so many parents/carers now in lockdown with their kids they might get to experience at first hand some of the drivel that is touted by the BBC in the name of “education”.

      • Malcolm Skipper permalink
        January 14, 2021 9:30 pm

        The original clip for the Bitesize site came from CBBC Newsround in July 2017, so only 3 years to (not) correct it. I’ve put in a complaint.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 15, 2021 9:42 am

      Indoctrinated ill-educated girl screams very loudly that she must have her own way. Presumably the BBC is showing this as a warning about spoilt, indulged brats wasting their chance at getting educated?

  7. ianprsy permalink
    January 14, 2021 1:11 pm

    Tits up? Are uou trying to get cancelled, Paul?

    • Allan Shelton permalink
      January 14, 2021 2:32 pm

      Paul should say “nipples north”

    • January 14, 2021 6:19 pm

      In the military we say “Tango Uniform”.

      • Paul H permalink
        January 15, 2021 12:57 am

        Lavly!

  8. dearieme permalink
    January 14, 2021 1:30 pm

    “set up in 2015 before the current Labour administration took over”.

    I note the suspicious use of “current”: who was in charge in 2015?

  9. Stonyground permalink
    January 14, 2021 1:43 pm

    Sorry to be OT but I seem to recall a post from early last year where some government person was telling us that it was a misconception that Britain has a wet climate. This misconception is presumably caused by people being deceived by the constant effing rain. My garden is presently disappearing beneath the waves and I have to don my wellies when I go to feed my chickens. I don’t suppose that he was ever called out for his bullshit, apart from here obviously.

  10. devonblueboy permalink
    January 14, 2021 1:54 pm

    Humpty Dumpty said it best – “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less”. Quite apt given the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ approach to commercial matters by council bureaucrats.

    • January 14, 2021 2:29 pm

      We are in the era of ‘Alice in Wonderlandnomics’, where economics can mean whatever you want it to mean

      • January 14, 2021 5:36 pm

        Original claim:Bristol Energy will reinvest profits back into its founding city but now: Mr Weston said he suspected the final losses would be “something north of £50m”.

        Reality got in the way of the half-baked dream. Just like it will with renewables.

  11. Devoncamel permalink
    January 14, 2021 3:14 pm

    Why did Bristol and Nottingham councils think it appropriate to get involved in domestic energy supply? Was the opportunity to virtuously signal too great to resist?
    Those responsible should be barred from public office for gross incompetence and wasting huge sums of taxpayer’s money.

  12. January 14, 2021 3:22 pm

    I see that yesterday 13th January 2021 Bristol Energy contributed £7500.00 to the Covid Winter Fund for the benefit of the good people of Bristol. Did the Directors not know they were going bust the following day or have I missed something? How does that work …. https://www.bristol-energy.co.uk/bristol-energy-supports-emergency-winter-fund

    • January 14, 2021 5:02 pm

      The Council sold off Bristol Energy a few months ago, at a huge loss, so it is still operational as a private company

  13. saveenergy permalink
    January 14, 2021 3:35 pm

    Hang on;
    Robin Hood Energy were honest & up front from the start plus they were fair.

    They said they were a ‘Not For Profit Company’ ( see 2nd picture),
    & they robbed everybody !

  14. Ian Phillips permalink
    January 14, 2021 3:38 pm

    Gritter Thunberg? OK for a lorry.
    But is the new. longer term, goal to prepare her, perhaps, to become the new leader of the World Government to be? That’s what this is all about, no?
    So how about “Gritler”…?
    No offence, of course.
    However, I believe she is, as yet, a young “useful innocent”. Let’s hope and pray reality breaks through the shell placed around her by her minders.

    • January 15, 2021 8:24 am

      Greta Gritler the gritter named after the little grifter.

  15. Coeur de Lion permalink
    January 14, 2021 4:22 pm

    Fraud

  16. Coeur de Lion permalink
    January 14, 2021 4:22 pm

    Fraud

  17. GeoffB permalink
    January 14, 2021 4:24 pm

    UK GO TITS UP.

  18. January 14, 2021 6:18 pm

    What a term: “Mutualized”. So does that mean everyone pays except the council?

    And Robin Hood, Not. Robbing the poor (tax payers) and giving to the Rich few. Wow..

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 15, 2021 9:44 am

      Yes I doubt if the CEO did it “not for profit”.

  19. Harry Passfield permalink
    January 14, 2021 6:36 pm

    Slightly o/t but I know we’re talking ‘ruinables’: I just caught the BBC News banging on about how China has ‘determined’ they would ‘try’ to be carbon-neutral by 2060 (I think they said). But the report (fronted by Harrabin, I think) showed miles and miles and MILES of scenic countryside absolutely covered in PVs. In any kind of rational society there would be an outcry at the despoliation of such a huge area of land – but not if a few square Km was covered by an equivalent Nuclear plant.
    The BBC are playing us for fools for their own ends and ignore the fact that they will suffer the effects of that policy like the rest of us (I really do hope).

    BTW: After the way AWS closed down Parler – JUST LIKE THAT – I worry about our climate blogs and how they will keep going if there is a move to shut them down.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 14, 2021 6:38 pm

      Slight double negative there….I mean that (greenies) would complain about nuclear but not the despoliation of huge areas of land for PV. And they can’t just use the excuse that China has a huge land mass.

  20. Cheshire Red permalink
    January 14, 2021 7:42 pm

    We’re constantly being lectured how fabulously competitive our energy sector is.

    If that’s so how was this council allowed to get involved? It’s literally none of their business to supply such a service.

    The councilors involved should each be on the hook for this. Shall we say a years salary each?

    Pour encourager les autres, and all that.

    • Devoncamel permalink
      January 14, 2021 9:53 pm

      My point precisely CR. All they’ve done is jump on the green political bandwagon. They should pay for the losses incurred but of course won’t.

  21. Gamecock permalink
    January 14, 2021 9:54 pm

    Bristol City Council should smile that they aren’t in China . . . where they all would have been executed by now.

    It seems there will be no punishment for squandering £50 million.

    So they will squander £100 million next time. People escalate their bad behavior until someone FINALLY stops them.

  22. Mavis Emberson permalink
    January 15, 2021 7:14 am

    Not for profit it says. and it didn,t make one… so why complain ?(trying for humour in a gloomy time)

  23. John Peter permalink
    January 15, 2021 7:48 am

    We have an abundance of universities teaching economics, but nobody in authority in the public sector appear to have attended any of the classes or tutorials. I wonder what happens to the brains of public sector accountants.

  24. January 15, 2021 8:29 am

    plus Councils have borrowed hundreds of millions to buy Green Energy Bonds sold by spivs
    It’s like a Ponzi

  25. January 15, 2021 8:40 am

    Paul, there’s another
    “Oct 15, 2020 The Portsmouth City Council-owned energy company is set to finally close for good after losing up to £3.5m”

    BTW old news “Bristol Energy has today been sold to company 50% owned by Warrington Council”

  26. January 15, 2021 8:52 am

    Private Eye covered it

  27. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 15, 2021 9:37 am

    Who would have thought that not focusing on making money could lead to businesses not making money?

    Why do we have to learn these lessons time after time after time with public money?

    • JohnW permalink
      January 16, 2021 2:29 am

      Their mission was to be a non-profit. They exceeded their own target.

  28. JohnW permalink
    January 16, 2021 1:58 am

    Many years ago I became head of a university research group. One of the projects that I inherited from my predecessor was a CHP scheme for a local council. It was a nightmare from start to finish. The technology kept breaking down, the guy who was supposed to be managing it from the council’s end was incapable of making decisions, and most of the time the researcher that we were employing had nothing to do. It was essentially a big money pit. But as it was classed as an ‘alternative energy’ scheme, nobody seemed to care that it didn’t actually produce any energy, alternative or otherwise.

    • ellyssen permalink
      January 17, 2021 7:29 pm

      So sad

  29. Douglas Dragonfly permalink
    January 18, 2021 4:57 am

    It is a classic case of perception management. It wins votes so to hell with the consequences like lack of funding for social care, public toilets, road maintenance etc. In 2015 Bristol was declared the Green Capital of Europe. The mayor of the time who lives in a old disused tobacco factory has a 60/70ft portrait of Greta Thorn-in-yer-side painted on his wall, directly opposite a busy supermarket entrance/exit.
    Then in 2016 there is a change of mayor (actually a dictator who can overrule the council and gets the final say). This mayor has absolutely no business skills and is highly secretive. On top of that believes in positive discrimination. Thus continues the virtue signaling in the pursit of votes. To hell with proven skill, experience and ability. Brunel must be spinning in his grave.

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