The Un – Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

It is surely one of life’s myriad mysteries. Why does my toast always fall butter-side down?  Why are my keys always in the last place I look? Why would any sane person vote ‘Tory?’ Yet perhaps the most compelling is the question – why, (according to British Gas Prepayment Meters,)  Ten Pounds Sterling is not the same value as Ten Pounds Sterling anywhere else in the Country? “What do you mean by that,” I hear you cry.  One cannot drive a car that is empty of petrol or diesel – yet, when the car finally dies out and one has to find a Petrol Station to fill one’s petrol/diesel tank, one is not charged by the petrol station for actually filling the vehicle.  Once a full tank of petrol/diesel is emptied, there is nothing left. Similarly, when one is faced with paying a fixed sum for a fixed sum of Domestic Gas – one would suppose that all one was getting was a fixed sum of gas for a fixed sum of money.

What could be difficult about that?  It’s hardly “Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle” – ‘You can know the position or the  momentum of a sub-atomic particle, but you can’t know both..”

But you would be wrong. Very wrong.

Hidden amongst all the various statistical information about your Tariff and the estimated amount of gas you will use during the upcoming year, there is also hidden, a charge for not using their ‘Emergency Gas Credit.’ Yes. You heard that right – a charge is levied for not using an emergency supply of gas, made available to you in case you ‘run out’ of Gas!? Just in case that may have passed you by, it is like you paying for petrol you have not used – but could. The onus here is on the idea of one being ‘facilitated’  – that is, permitted to have the use of, over and above the actual amount of Gas purchased. This means that, if in the course of a week, one runs out of Gas (and, for whatever reason may not have sufficient funds to purchase more) there is a facility for being able use an ’emergency supply’ which will last for a fixed period of time (usually two or three days at current energy prices.) Of course, in the event of actually using the emergency supply, one has not only to pay back the amount used in ’emergency’ but also to ‘top-up’ one’s Gas above and beyond the emergency amount used.

It is at this point things become a little more ‘ephemeral’ – perhaps even ‘supernatural.’ One expects to pay back a debt one has accrued for the use of a service or entitlement afforded to one. But, according to British Gas (though it is by no means clarified anywhere among the tomes of ‘information’ they proffer on their website) there is also a charge for not taking advantage of their ‘Emergency Supply.’ Indeed, one will find that almost as soon as one runs – out of Gas – one is immediately charged for not ‘topping-up’ one’s Gas beforehand. In fact, it could be reasonably argued that British Gas effectively punish one for having the gall: the singular temerity, the bare-faced affrontery, the sheer insolence and cheek of not topping up one’s Gas long before you ‘decided’ to run out, and not using their ’emergency gas supply’ so generously afforded to you through the goodness of their charitable benevolence.

This means you can know the amount of Gas you are using, by the rate at which a fixed sum runs out, or you can know which Tarriff you are on and estimate accordingly – but, you can’t accurately know both..

The fact that one is also least likely to run up huge debts through overuse, a massive or disproportionate ‘Carbon Footprint’ and that one is frugally, responsibly and carefully monitoring and using a very limited amount of energy seems to fill British Gas with anything but admiration or gratitude. In fact, those who pay British Gas (and any/all of the ‘umbrella’ energy corporations – ie. different names: same prices.. or, as I like to call it, “what they all lose in Gas Supply they will all inevitably gain in Electricity Supply” (that is, ‘we.. will always lose to these cartels!’)

Those who pay for their Gas through a Pre-payment Meter are being charged at far higher prices for their Energy than those who pay by Direct Debit. Why?

Believe it or not, it is to do with the risk of being charged by Banks and the Utilities for a Direct Debit failure. This is how those who pay by Direct Debit are also ripped off, yet, proportionately, if you are one who pays up to 40% of your money (whether through Low Income, Tax Credits or even Benefits) then every single penny makes a difference. Direct Debit failures are more expensive on individual occasions. The rip-off that is happening with prepayment meters is constant and growing!

It just doesn’t add up!

Tarriffs are a pain. One needs a degree in mathematics to accurately work out exactly how much Gas one is actually using. Beyond crunching the numbers through a supercomputer, I defy anyone to ‘mentally’ work out their annual amount of gas. Tarriffs are split into two classes: the first (expensive) Tarriff A says that a fixed number of kilowatt hours must be used before (cheaper by half) Tarriff B operates: that is, [the ‘estimated’ amount of energy used in one hour (by what? A kettle? central heating? gas-fired kiln?) is charged] – usually at twice the price of Tarriff B! The Mathematic values used to explain the charges different Tarriffs incur is mind-bogglingly complex.

Not because the Maths is too hard to comprehend: but because the formula that are used to create the tarriffs in the first place are unknown to the General Public (ie You and Me!)

We know that Empirically/Metrically that a ‘Pound of Sugar’ is (pretty much) a ‘pound of Sugar’ – mainly because there are Governing Public Bodies – responsible for the estimation and standardization of weights and measures,  and a whole raft of legislation covering everything from the specific gravity of Alcohol to volumes of milk that constitute both the Empirical  ‘Gallon,’ and the European Metric ‘Litre.’ Yet no such standardization of volumes/partial pressures or cubic quantities have been expressly identified in the ‘estimates’ of any and/or, all of the Gas Suppliers. It seems that we are forced to take ‘on trust’ the specific mathematics that are used to create estimates and levels of Tarriffs.

This is not helped by ‘Standing Charges’ – yet another charge for not using Gas!  Why standing charges are demanded from any of us is a mystery. It is just another ‘tax’ which the hard-pressed consumer is compelled to pay – even when they are not actually using their gas at all!!

One thing is sure.

One is expected to use a hell of a lot of gas before one can take advantage of the lower tarriff! (ie Tarriff ‘B’)

Couple that with having a fixed income and therefore fixed energy needs and one can see a glaring injustice in the calculation of Gas prices and the end supply costs to even the most frugal of consumers.

The cumulative effect of all the hidden charges with Brish Gas Tarrifs, Prepayment Meter services et al. effectively doubles or triples the actual cost!

In conclusion.

Neither British Gas, nor any other Gas Supplier allows the most important function of the present-day need for energy conservation – that is:  the ability for the ordinary consumer to ‘store’ required energy until such time they need or require it! Ten pounds of Gas is not Ten pounds of Gas – the likelihood is that from the time the Gas Supply runs-out, you will be charged for the length of time you have no Gas! (in my case £11.00 of Gas was immediately ‘charged’ and reduced to £10.64.. had I only been able to put £10.00 on my meter – I would have only had the true value of £9.64.. less than three days Gas Supply – at current rates.)

In no other circumstances does this happen. One is not charged by one’s Car, Motorcyle, Yacht, Aeroplane for not topping up one’s fuel/battery..

But there are ‘hidden charges’ appearing in all sorts of places – and they are increasing, especially in Banks Credit and Debit Card charges, and, there is now even a price to be paid for not using your phone/internet to pay bills.

The Utilities in general (and British Gas in particular) are constantly charging us for things we don’t use..and increasing prices dramatically on those we do.

And we can’t switch it any of it off either – because they will charge us for trying to do so!…