Consumers International secures International Standard on energy access

23 August 2016

There are 1.4 billion people on the planet without access to electricity and one billion more whose supply is unreliable. Consumers International knew this needed to change. We proposed, worked on and even drafted the first version of an International Standard on access to energy.

The Standard has just been approved by ISO - the first time that a Standard proposed by an NGO has become an ISO International Standard.

People without energy access: The Standard states that the responsible body (usually the Government) should provide citizens with access to energy (for example kerosene, sustainably harvested firewood, gas cylinders), even if they do not have access to an energy supply (the networked wires and pipes). It also moves the emphasis on energy subsidies which currently go to people already with a supply, often richer consumers, to being able to help people get connected to energy supplies, more likely to be poorer consumers.

People with intermittent supply: Often consumers in poorer areas suffer from energy outages disproportionately compared to those living in richer areas. The new Standard states that interruptions to energy services if they need to happen, must be distributed fairly.

People who already have an energy supply: The Standard sets out better customer service principles; more access to redress, the ability to appeal, clearer billing and better metering procedures, as well as fairer and more transparent tariffs.

Consumers International argued for specific issues to be addressed in the Standard, for example, companies being held to account for mis-selling of energy, a serious problem in open markets.

The Standard sets a new precedent, moving away from a seller/buyer relationship between the companies and consumer where the objective is to sell as much energy as possible, to one of advisor/user. Energy companies now need to give advice about conserving energy and improving efficiency, in order to sell less energy where possible for the same level of use and comfort.

Consumers International has worked on similar Standards in the past and have seen how successful they can be, for example the Standard on access to water and sanitation which has increased consumer rights and improved industry practice, particularly in Latin America where it has been widely adopted. We hope the energy Standard will have a similar affect.

We now hope the major energy providers and Governments adopt and implement this Standard so we can start to see a better deal for consumers spread across the globe.

Read more about Standard ISO 50007: Activities relating to energy services — Guidelines for the assessment and improvement of the energy service to users (ISO 50007).