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Cutting energy costs

Young Devon share their experience of reorganising their energy contracts in order to cut costs.

Background

Young Devon is a county-wide charity whose vision is to make Devon a better place for all young people, by reducing disadvantage and improving opportunity.

We currently have 12-14 sites around Devon, which vary from drop-in and counselling centres to developmental spaces, including a café supported by the River Cottage and Supported Housing projects.

The issues we faced

Devon is a large county so we have several sites under our management. Renegotiating a new contract and switching provider for each one would have been unmanageable for us without help.

Each contract was with a different utility provider and had a different end date which made things much more complex.

Each contract required quite a wide range of documentation, including:

  • letters of authority
  • agreed rates
  • VAT and CCL exemption forms.

We knew that this would be really time consuming, so we decided to try and find a utility broker to agree prices and lengths of contract and handle the paper work for us.

We got quotes from various utility brokers but found that their contracts included a percentage charge, sometimes as much as 50%, on all savings. We thought that this was quite high and it would have been onerous to calculate our savings.

The actions we took

We decided to try the services of LSI Utility Brokers, who were recommended to us by NCVO as LSI offer discounts to NCVO members.

LSI agreed to renegotiate all of our utility providers so that we’d have one provider for each energy type. This would be done gradually as each of our current contracts expired and all new contracts would have a common end date.

Over a period of three years we switched all of our electricity contracts to Scottish and Southern Power and all of our gas contracts to Total Gas and Power, with a common end date of 31 March 2015 for all contracts.

Positive outcomes

In February 2015 LSI instigated the tender process for two multi-site contracts – one for electricity and one for gas.

This was at a time when oil prices had slumped and energy providers had no option other than to reflect that in their pricing. Because of this, the prices quoted to us were as good as they could be and we agreed new 36 month contracts at excellent rates.

Negative outcomes

There were a few problems here and there such as setting up new direct debits and arranging for the VAT and CCL reduced rate. Also, the exemptions as a charity were not in place on occasions.

There was another occasion where there was a problem agreeing a meter reading between the old and new providers.

Lessons learnt

  • Timing is often an issue – we appeared to have planned the timing of our renewal contracts well, partly by luck.
  • Switching utilities is not an easy process and very often different issues are dealt with by different departments, which can make communication difficult.
  • Pricing systems can be inconsistent and confusing.
  • Having an account manager is invaluable when issues arise which cannot always be resolved with the service providers – commissioning LSI Utility Brokers worked out really well for us, and we wholeheartedly recommend them to other charities.

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Page last edited May 24, 2017

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