FAQs

1. Who are Switched On London?

We are a broad coalition backed by a range of community organisations, grassroots groups, NGOs and trade unions. Find out who’s involved here.

2. What do we want?

We are calling on the Greater London Authority (GLA) – in collaboration with London boroughs – to set up a new publicly owned energy company that London can be proud of. We want a democratic alternative to the Big Six that cuts bills and cuts polluting carbon emissions. Find out more about what we want here.

Our demand is being put to the GLA, because the ambitious company we want would need cross-London involvement. It is important that the GLA collaborates with London boroughs on this, because boroughs already have a lot of the knowledge, expertise, property and land that our proposal would require.

3. What’s wrong with the way things are?

Since our energy was privatised in the 1980s, bills have risen and customer satisfaction has hit rock bottom. Over one million Londoners are in fuel poverty. But the profits of the Big Six – British Gas, EDF, EON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE – have increased tenfold since 2007.

Meanwhile, across the world it’s public investment – not private companies – that is leading the way towards the clean, renewable energy we need in the face of climate change. Germany’s transition to renewable energy is being led by cities reversing privatisation and taking back power . Ordinary Londoners are losing out, left with a dirty and polluted environment — with those on low incomes and people of colour worst affected.

Private companies will always prioritise their bottom-line over the public interest. Londoners deserve something better.

4. But why would public ownership be any better?

By removing the profit-motive, public companies are better placed to work in the interests of energy users and workers. Local authorities could deliver energy at lower costs and are highly trusted, particularly on energy issues. In a recent Yougov poll, people were three times more likely to believe an energy supplier owned by a local authority would give them a fair deal, while over a third of respondents said they’d prefer to buy from a local supplier.

But while a return to public ownership is a necessary first step, we want to go further. We want a truly democratic company with elected board members, advisory neighbourhood assemblies, online democracy and full transparency. We want an energy company run for Londoners, controlled by Londoners themselves. Find out more about our vision here.

5. Do ordinary people have the specialist knowledge required to run an energy company. Shouldn’t we leave it to the experts?

Leaving it to the ‘experts’ is what has got us into this mess: after ministers sold off our energy in the 1980s, the private sector has consistently failed us. We all use energy so we all deserve a say. Ordinary people need to take control to make sure that our interests are represented.

The energy company we want would still employ specialists and draw on the best technical knowledge. But as people who use energy on a day-to-day basis, our knowledge – about what makes a good quality service, about what prices are affordable, about what it would be useful for revenues to be reinvested in – is important as well.

6. But how could we pay for all this?

Through its employees’ pension funds, the GLA invests £234million in polluting fossil fuels. This money should be re-invested in the people’s energy company we are demanding. The GLA could also issue “municipal bonds”, as it has done to finance Crossrail.

In fact, the public company we are proposing could serve as a new source of revenue for the GLA. That’s why other local authorities such as Nottingham and Bristol are setting up municipal supply companies like the one we are proposing.

7. Are you suggesting covering London in wind farms?

100% clean energy is a totally achievable goal for London. Our research team is currently working on a more detailed survey of our vision for low-carbon technology. Expect to hear more early 2016. But for now, we know that we want a company that invests ambitiously in a range of low-carbon technologies, including wind but also other options such as solar, geothermal and district heating. This includes a lot more local renewable generation, but could also involve options such as investment in Britain’s abundant offshore wind potential.

8. How are you going to cut bills and tackle climate change at the same time?

Bringing down bills and emissions go hand in hand. The main factor behind out of control energy bills is our dependence on gas, a fuel whose price is increasingly volatile. According to the Committee on Climate Change – the government’s independent energy advisors – investment in low-carbon technology is a necessary measure to bring down bills. Wind is now the cheapest source of electricity in the UK and solar is set to be cheaper than coal and gas by 2025.

9. Okay, this all sounds good. But how are you going to achieve this?

First off, we’re launching a bold and vibrant campaign in the run up to the 2016 London Mayoral Elections. We’re going to survey Londoners to find out what they’d like in a new energy company. We’ll be running community forums in food banks, schools, youth centres and places of worship to hear what needs to change. Expect to see us on high streets and in public spaces across the city, getting the word out and sparking debate. And keep your eyes pealed for imaginative protests and creative interventions. People-powered energy is what we want; people power is how we’ll get it.

10. I’m in! What do I do next!?

Fantastic! First, show your support by signing our petition. Then please do get stuck in to making this happen. Whether you’re a seasoned campaigner or totally new to all this, we need your help! Get in touch with us using the contact form at the bottom of this page to let us know how you’d like to help out.