Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called for a parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of Our Power, after it emerged that the SNP Government is poised to lose millions of pounds it invested in the not-for-profit energy supplier and will only have weeks to learn lessons before its own identical company is to start serving customers.
Our Power, a social enterprise, commenced trading in 2016 to make energy fairer and reduce levels of fuel poverty. A KPMG Insolvency Report shows that the Scottish Government was the largest backer, providing £9.8 million in loans. It had 31,000 customers and around 75 staff when it went bust last January.
After Willie Rennie asked what lessons would be learned, SNP ministers stated that “the full picture will be available at the conclusion of the administration process” and that officials would “provide a review of the investment at that point”.
However, the administration process is this month set to be extended by KPMG by 12 months to the end of January 2021 – just weeks before the government’s own new not-for-profit energy company is due to start serving customers.
Willie Rennie has written to the Chair of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, Gordon Lindhurst MSP, to ask if the committee will now investigate.
Willie Rennie commented:
“Our Power lost money from day one and racked up huge losses, backed by £10 million of investment from SNP ministers. Company bosses warned of market volatility, tightening margins and that a string of bankruptcies were taking their toll on the sector.
“The Scottish Government as the foundation lender, and with plans of its own to launch an energy company with an identical ethos, needs to get the bottom of what went wrong to avoid repeating its mistakes.
“However, we now find out that ministers will only get what they describe as ‘the full picture’ weeks before they are due to start supplying energy to people’s homes.
“That is why I believe it would be sensible to immediately launch a parliamentary inquiry into Our Power’s demise and to learn the lessons now, so far as is possible.
“Without an inquiry the SNP Government risks spending serious money setting up its new energy company, not knowing whether the approach it is investing in is the right one. Ministers need to learn the lessons of their last scheme quickly. I don’t want them to throw good money after bad.”