Ofgem is investigating low-cost supplier Symbio Energy for failing to make on-time payments into two schemes supporting green energy.
Symbio failed to show it had sourced sufficient electricity from renewable resources between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020 by presenting Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to the regulator by 1 September 2020. This failure to present ROCs, which are issued to suppliers by accredited renewable generators, left Symbio on the hook for payments into the RO buyout fund.
Symbio initially owed £506,308 into the fund but missed the original 31 August deadline and then didn’t provide the regulator with assurances that it would clear its balance, plus interest, by the late deadline of 31 October.
Symbio was one of the three providers, including Nabuh Energy and Robin Hood Energy, which Ofgem slapped with final orders over non-payment of their RO bills in the last days of October, threatening their supply licences.
Symbio challenged the final order in court in October, but a High Court judge denied its request for urgent injunctive relief. Ofgem has defended its enforcement action as “reasonable, proportionate and lawful.”
After Symbio cleared its balance on 13 November, Ofgem revoked the final order. But the regulator wasn’t done with Symbio, which it says also missed three other payment deadlines for green schemes over a four-month period. This includes a RO mutualisation payment, to clear the £97.5 million black hole left in the RO fund in 2019 by suppliers’ late payments and market exits.
Symbio also failed to make two quarterly levelisation payments to the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme, through which domestic customers with renewable installations such as solar panels are paid by their suppliers for the electricity they generate.
Ofgem is now opening an investigation into Symbio’s “unacceptable” late payments and will consider whether further enforcement action, including financial penalties, is necessary. The regulator said the investigation signals that it “takes compliance with the feed-in tariff and Renewable Obligation seriously.”
Other suppliers struggled to make RO payments this year, with 24 active missing the August deadline. Most met the later October deadline, but Tonik Energy went bust over the debt.
Late payments into the RO fund and supplier exits, including of Robin Hood Energy, left a substantial shortfall in the scheme for the third consecutive year, triggering mutualisation. Active suppliers will now pay the £33 million outstanding throughout next year. They’re likely to pass the cost of this mutualisation onto their customers, driving up energy bills.
This is the second time in less than a year that Symbio Energy has drawn the ire of Ofgem. Last March, Ofgem banned Symbio and five other suppliers from signing up new customers after they missed by more than two years a deadline to use the Data Communication Company’s smart meter network. The DCC’s platform offers a software fix that allows first-generation meters which have lost connectivity, as often happens when a household switches energy supplier, to be reconnected.
Symbio later became a DCC user and is once again allowed to sign up new customers.