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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Cost of Living: Energy Expert Shares How You Can Get Support With Your Bills

UK households are being urged to take up all available support for energy bills amid rising costs, with concerns over the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) changing from £2,500  to £3,000 in April. 

The EPG protects households from full exposure to high wholesale energy prices by limiting the maximum unit price households pay for energy. It is different to the Energy Price Cap and currently takes precedence over the Energy Price Cap (which is higher). The current protections means an average household pays £2,500 for their energy. In April the EPG protection reduces and the average household will pay £3,000 for their energy, another 20% increase for families who are already struggling.   

Energy saving app, Loop, are highlighting the support in place for anyone struggling to manage their bills, with costs due to increase by a fifth in just under 2 months.1  

According to the BBC, 28.1 million households have not cashed in their Energy Bills Support Scheme vouchers which are worth £400, and Loop are calling for households to make use of any available support and resources to cut usage and costs. 

Dr Steve Buckley, Head of Data Science at Loop, said: “We’d urge anyone who hasn’t cashed in their Energy Bills Support Scheme to do so as soon as possible, or if you haven’t received yours, contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. This scheme is open to every household – you don’t need to provide any personal information to access it. 

“But this is just one element of the suite of support that’s available for anyone who’s struggling right now. There are multiple schemes offering discounts, vouchers, and grants from the Government, energy suppliers and more to ease the high costs. We’d encourage everyone to review the support and check their eligibility, so they are maximising what’s available through the winter months. We’ve collated guidance on what support is available for households who are struggling with their energy bills. 

Loop also offers support and guidance to reduce your energy usage, in order to save on costs. This doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the things you genuinely need, instead this information can allow you to better control your usage so you can cut excess, or wasted energy, like your Phantom Load – which refers to appliances that use energy while left on standby.” 

Support available from the Government:

In addition to the Energy Bills Support Scheme, there are several other interventions to reduce bills.  

  1. Winter Fuel Payment – People over the age of 66 are entitled to between £100-300 of support, but in 2022 and expected for 2023, there’s an additional ‘top-up’ of £300 for households, bringing the support up to £600. If you think you are eligible but did not receive notification last year, you can make a claim by calling the Winter Fuel Payment Centre. 
  1. Warm home Discount – This is for those who receive pension credit or are on certain benefits, and is a £150 rebate on your bill or top up voucher. In England and Wales, this is now applied automatically, rather than needing to be applied for. 
  1. Cold Weather Payment – This is an extra £25 payment for each seven-day period where temperatures hit below zero degrees, and is for those on pension credit and some other benefits.  

For households with heating oil, LPG or biomass boilers, £200 is available and should have been applied on 6th February. 

Households on means-tested benefits will get £900 throughout the next year, in three instalments. 

Support available through energy providers: 

  1. Hardship grants – These grants are available through some energy providers for customers who are struggling to repay or are in arrears. Although customers must speak to a debt advisor before applying and provide more detail to demonstrate how arrears have built up. Most providers only offer grants to their own customers, but British Gas’ grants are available to non-customers and can be as much as £1,500. This can take several weeks. 

For those on prepayment meters, all suppliers are required to help if you’re struggling to pay.  

  1. Emergency credit – This is aimed at helping those who have little money left on their meter and are struggling to pay, this is typically £5, but some suppliers have raised to £15. 
  1. Friendly credit – This prevents those on pre-payment meters being cut off when shops are closed and they can’t top up their meters. 
  1. Additional support credit – This is typically for those in vulnerable situations who are facing disconnection. The support you get will vary based on supplier, and on a case-by-case basis. 

Customers on prepay are entitled to extra support, due to protections from the regulator Ofgem, with additional support available through different suppliers. This varies from £250 of non-repayable credit for vulnerable British Gas customers, to delays in debt collection, increased welfare checks and increased emergency credit. 

Further support is available through councils, and charities provide specialist help for certain groups who are likely to be worse affected.  

Other support to reduce usage and costs 

The National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) is another scheme available to households, supporting them to reduce energy usage and earn as a result. Households can sign up through their provider or through Loop to take part.  

The scheme encourages people to shift their electricity usage to outside of peak hours to make savings. 

Only some utility providers are offering customers access to the DFS scheme, but the scheme is open to anyone with a smart meter via Loop’s Turn Down and Save scheme, even if your provider isn’t taking part. 

Dr Steve Buckley, Head of Data Science at Loop, said: “We know times are tough with the cost of living and prices due to rise again when many are already struggling, but it’s important to know that support is available. 

“We have shared guidance on changes you can make to lower your gas usage this winter, from reducing your boiler’s flow temperature, to tweaking your heating schedule. And the free Loop app helps people to manage their energy usage and identify where changes can be made to cut costs.” 

Steve’s expert tips for reducing gas usage: 

  1. Heating timings – schedule your heating to be on only when you’re at home, and turn it off 20 minutes before you need to, as the hot water in the radiators will stay warm. 
  1. Keep the draught out – purchase draught excluders to put underneath your doors and better your chances of keeping the warmth in. 
  1. Give your radiator space – move your furniture away from the radiator to allow heat to circulate around the room. 
  1. Reduce your boiler flow temperature – If this is set too high the boiler will run inefficiently, reducing this can save between 8-12% on gas bills. 
  1. Wash on 20° – most washing powders and detergents efficiently clean clothes at lower temperatures meaning you can use a colder setting and use less energy. 
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