Taking on the energy giants: The co-operative insurgency gains ground

The roots of the co-operative movement lie in providing an alternative to unscrupulous providers; it was made for the fight against the energy oligopoly.

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When 38 Degrees recruited more than 200,000 energy consumers to bargain for better energy prices  as a bloc, Left Foot Forward asked why the leading campaigning group was not asking more of its members than pursuing their self-interest.

Energy-rip-offCormac Hollingsworth argued that if the campaigners acted co-operatively, the possible prize could be so much bigger:

Co-operators live their values: the ethics of a co-operative owning enterprise is as important as getting the best price in a competitive market.

At this point the cry might be, well where’s the Co-op movement’s answer to the energy oligopoly? If you don’t know, then you need to get out of London more often.

The Midcounties Co-operative has been running a very effective energy co-op called Co-operative Energy, growing it through regional ads. It gained its 200,000th customer this month.

What is perhaps ironic is that while 38 Degrees is going to “work with consumer experts at Which? to negotiate cheaper rates on our behalf”, no-one thought to mention that Co-operative Energy won last year’s Which? Consumer Action award.

38 Degrees’ tagline is power, people, change. After their data harvesting from saving forests and campaigning more effectively on the NHS than anyone else one cannot deny that they have the first two.

But I’d like to see them think a little more about how they add “sustainable” to their aspiration for “change”.

When we spoke to 38 Degrees afterwards, they did say that a co-operative option had not been taken off the table, and we are delighted that that is precisely what the organisation has backed.

“Some good news. We’ve just got the results for our people-powered bid to get cheaper gas and electricity prices.The Co-op has come forward with the cheapest offer. And it looks like those of us taking part could save a grand total of £25 million. 200,000 households will be offered an average saving of £123 a year.

“This proves our plan to use our shared buying power to drive a harder bargain can work. But it’s also great news that Co-operative Energy – a newer, smaller and more ethical supplier – managed to offer the cheapest deal.

“The Co-op offered us a better price than giants like British Gas. Maybe that’s got something to do with their different business model – they don’t pay their bosses whopping bonuses, and they’re keener on green energy. When thousands of us switch over, we’ll send a signal to the huge, profit-hungry companies: gas and electricity customers are taking their power back!”


See also:

We need more community and co-operative ownership of energy 13 Mar 2012

Let’s end the tyranny of the big six energy companies 17 Oct 2011

Outrage at 733 per cent rise in energy companies’ profits 14 Oct 2011

Government needs to take on the energy companies to bring down prices 17 Aug 2011

Misselling is only the beginning of the energy companies’ sins 25 Jul 2011


The roots of the co-operative movement lie in providing an alternative to unscrupulous providers who would adulterate their goods and opportunistically inflate their prices.  It was made for the fight against the energy oligopoly.


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