Urban Splash’s Nick Johnson likened energy companies to drug dealers this week as he called for reform of the utilities markets

Speaking at a sustainability conference on Monday, organised by Building, the firm’s deputy chief executive said a “radical change” was needed to persuade energy firms to encourage green living.

Speaking after the event, he said: “The problem is that suppliers of energy are financially rewarded by us consuming more. Therefore the default market position is to try and sell us more when we need to be consuming less. They need to be incentivised to sell less.

“In my opinion, energy companies should be viewed as tobacco suppliers or drug dealers. If we viewed them with that level of stigma, then things would change pretty quickly.

“Lots of people think nibbling away at the edges is the answer. I’m suggesting a much more profound and significant change is needed. It’s crucial because it’s about protecting the environment.”

Johnson, who is a Cabe commissioner, also criticised energy regulator Ofgem and water regulator Ofwat for failing to promote the interests of the public. “On the surface those bodies are there to protect the consumer, but in fact they are far more interested in protecting the shareholder,” he said.

Energy companies should be viewed as tobacco suppliers or drug dealers

Nick Johnson

The comments come just weeks after the National Federation of Builders attacked the “staggering arrogance” of energy companies after publishing figures on project delays caused by problems with utility connections. Work on 88% of sites suffered such delays this year and electricity companies were reported to be the worst offenders, causing problems for 66% of firms.

Johnson also called for legislative change to make sure energy efficiency is reflected in the value of homes. He said: “We know it costs more to build a building that’s energy efficient but there’s no mechanism yet to reflect the value added.

“The problem is there are many push factors – regulation, standards – that the government uses but we need some pull factors too, some rewards.”