Wales

Cyd Cymru: 'Band together' to buy cheaper energy call

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Media captionThe scheme has been set up by local councils

People are being encouraged to join forces to get a better deal on their gas and electricity through a scheme being launched across Wales.

Households club together and effectively hold an auction with energy suppliers to see which firm offers the lowest price.

It is hoped the collective buying of energy will see household bills fall by hundreds of pounds a year.

A similar scheme was set up in Cornwall a year ago.

The Welsh version, Cyd Cymru or Wales Together, has been developed by Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan councils with support from other local authorities and housing associations around Wales.

They hope to change the way energy is bought, simplify what they say is a complex tariff system and aim to address the issue of rising fuel prices as winter approaches.

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Media captionEconomics correspondent Sarah Dickins reports on the community energy scheme

'Genuine opportunity'

"Collective energy buying schemes mean consumers can band together to negotiate with energy suppliers to get the best rate on the market for consumers," said Ashley Govier, Cardiff council's cabinet member for environment.

"The more people that get involved, the greater the potential to gain a better deal.

"This is a genuine opportunity to steer a way through the turmoil of price rises and multitude of tariff options from the main companies."

A similar scheme was piloted last year in Cornwall which helped people in fuel poverty to save money on their bills.

Its project manager Matt Hastings, from the Eden Project, told BBC Radio Wales around 10% of Cornish households signed-up, but there were mixed levels of engagement from the energy industry.

He said: "I think we are at the beginning of the end in terms of the existing large oligopoly of the energy market.

"There is a massive transference going on towards community energy and in two to three years I think we're really going to to see that come through."

Last week, British Gas announced it was increasing prices for domestic customers, with a dual-fuel bill going up by 9.2% from 23 November - meaning an average annual rise of £123.

The increase, which will affect nearly eight million households in the UK, includes an 8.4% rise in gas prices and a 10.4% increase in electricity prices.

It follows rival SSE previously announcing an 8.2% increase in bills from 15 November.

On Monday morning, Npower became the third major supplier to announce price rises, with a dual-fuel bill to go up 10.4%.

The price rise will take effect on 1 December, and is the highest increase announced by any supplier so far.

Prime Minister David Cameron has urged consumers to switch suppliers for the best deal while Energy Minister Ed Davey described the latest price rise as "extremely disappointing news" for customers.

The Vale of Glamorgan's cabinet member for environment, Rob Curtis, said Cyd Cymru was a better option than going it alone.

He added: "Shopping around for the best energy deal takes time so Cyd Cymru is the ideal solution for busy families."

Energy Saving Trust Wales said it was no surprise many households were concerned about paying energy bills.

In Cornwall, the Cornwall Together initiative had 7,000 households sign up within a month of launching in October last year.

Switchers are saving an average of £133 on their energy bills.

Matt Hastings, founder of Cornwall Together, said: "Despite the savings claimed from Cornwall Together's first round, £750,000 of savings still went unclaimed from people who signed up but didn't switch."

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