Yorkshire energy firm aims to take on the big players

AN entrepreneur who helped to revive large parts of industrial Leeds has launched an energy company which aims to challenge the sector's biggest players.

Peter Connolly, chairman of Yorkshire Design Group
Peter Connolly, chairman of Yorkshire Design Group

In the 1990s, Peter Connolly turned The Calls and the South Bank in Leeds from no-go areas into fashionable places to live and work.

Mr Connolly, the chairman of Yorkshire Design Group, has set up a mutual and municipal energy firm called MME, to provide “fair for all” tariffs and challenge the dominant Big Six utility companies.

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The new technology business is joining forces with YPO, the Yorkshire-based purchasing organisation which buys goods and services, including gas and electricity, on behalf of more than 40 local authorities.

Together they will offer energy deals to hundreds of thousands of households and businesses.

Mr Connolly said: “We will be owned by our partners and be fair for all of our customers.

“The energy industry is one of the least trusted sectors in Britain and it is easy to see why. The cost of energy on your bill is between 30 to 40 per cent. The rest is charges and overheads.

“We will be operating with new technology, lower costs and without the legacy IT systems of the Big Six, which are largely owned by foreign governments and investors.

“We will be cheaper, better and locally owned and we will create and support local jobs.”

MME obtained a licence for trading gas and electricity at the end of August, allowing it to buy from the wholesale energy markets.

It will supply customers with smart meters to provide accurate information about energy usage and help them to save money.

MME has developed the latest cloud-based software to put households and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in charge of their bills.

A spokesman said: “Unlike its multi-national rivals, it is not lumbered with legacy IT systems and expensive overheads.

“The new company will tackle fuel poverty by offering the same tariffs for pay-as- you-go customers as credit billing customers instead of penalising them with premium costs.”

MME is establishing partnerships with local authorities to offer gas and electricity to consumers and businesses in their areas.

The partnership will generate profits for members in the form of a “mutual dividend” to reinvest in their communities and help fund regeneration projects.

The spokesman added yesterday: “The new company is challenging the traditional structure of the energy industry, which is made up of energy suppliers, meter asset providers and meter operators.

“MME wants to partner with financial institutions with a mutual ethos to invest in meters as assets, which will provide long-term returns for members.

“Local authorities and housing associations can provide qualified staff to install the meters, creating and saving local jobs.”

MME has appointed Annie Faulder as its chief executive. Ms Faulder has worked as an interim executive at a number of local authority and NHS organisations.

Simon Hill, managing director of Wakefield-based YPO, said: “YPO has been helping local authorities buy their own energy requirements competitively for many years. Those authorities are now interested in using that buying power for the benefit of their council tax payers and it makes sense for YPO to assist in this new initiative as well.

“As a successful commercial organisation, operating within the public sector, we are ideally placed to do so.”

As a civic entrepreneur, Mr Connolly led the regeneration of post-industrial Leeds from the mid-1990s, transforming areas like South Bank into fashionable destinations for urban living and start-up businesses. 

He believed the former industrial sites, which were widely regarded as eyesores, had vast commercial potential.

Mr Connolly also set up UK Web in 1995, one of Britain’s first internet companies and the pioneer of hosted conferencing on the web.