With the energy price cap set to rise in October, we look at the help available if you’re worried about getting into ‘energy debt’ and the steps you can take to lower your energy bills.
In October this year, the energy price cap is set to rise from £1,971 to £3,240 a year, with a further rise predicted for January 2023.
Rising energy prices are concerning for every household, but are especially worrying for those on lower incomes.
If you’re concerned about getting into energy debt, there is help available.
And there are things you can do at home to help to reduce your energy consumption.
Whether you’re on a monthly tariff or a pre-pay meter, the first thing you should do if you’re struggling to pay your bills is to contact your supplier.
The energy regulator Ofgem has rules in place stating that your supplier must help you if you’re falling behind on your energy bills.
They should help you to work out an affordable payment plan that is manageable for you.
It’s rare for suppliers to disconnect customers. They’re more likely to fit a prepayment meter in your home, but will usually only do this if they've explored all other payment recovery options with you first.
Some major suppliers are offering grants to those struggling with energy debt.
British Gas is offering grants of up to £1,500 for individuals and families in energy debt, no matter who your supplier is. You'll need to meet certain criteria to qualify.
Find out more at the British Gas Energy Trust.
The following companies are also offering financial support through grants. Again, you'll need to meet certain criteria to qualify for the funds.
- EDF Energy Customer Support Fund
- E.on Next Energy Fund
- Ovo Energy Fund
- Octo Assist Fund
- Scottish Power Hardship Fund
£400 credited to your energy bills
In May this year, Rishi Sunak announced that every household in Britain would see £400 cut from their energy bills.
You do not need to apply or sign up for anything – your energy supplier will simply credit the £400 to your account.
Low-income households to receive £800
Low-income households, pensioners and people with disabilities are set to receive up to £800 of additional support.
Around 8 million households on the lowest incomes will receive a one-off Cost of Living Payment of £650.
The money will be given in two payments, the first from this month and the second in the autumn.
It will be sent straight to the bank accounts of people on means-tested benefits without the need to claim it.
Households will also benefit from the previously announced £150 council tax rebate for homes in England that sit within bands A to D.
Pensioners to receive £300
Pensioners are set to receive a one-off Pensioner Cost of Living Payment of £300.
The cash will help more than eight million households who receive the Winter Fuel Payment.
They will receive the money in the autumn.
People with disabilities to receive £150
An estimated 6 million people who receive means-tested disability benefits will be given a one-off Disability Cost of Living Payment of £150 in September.
Many of these people will also receive the £650 Cost of Living Payment for low-income households, bringing the total value of support to £800.
To help people who do not fall into the above categories, the government is also putting an extra £500 million into the Household Support Fund from October.
What is the Household Support Fund?
The government’s Household Support Fund is a £1.5bn pot which councils can access to support their most vulnerable residents.
The fund enables local councils to distribute payments in the form of small grants to help towards the cost of food, energy and water bills, as well as general living costs to support those most in need.
The fund is available until March 2023.
The Warm Home Discount Scheme (WHD) is a government-led scheme offering a one-off payment of £150 (inclusive of VAT) towards energy costs.
The scheme was introduced by the Government in April 2011 to help customers most in need.
It's a £150 rebate applied to your electricity or gas bill between October and March. If you're on a prepay meter, you'll usually be sent a top-up voucher.
Fuel poverty and energy efficiency charity National Energy Action (the NEA) offers support and guidance for those experiencing fuel poverty.
It offers a free support service known as WASH (Warm and Safe Homes).
You can call them on 0800 304 7159, or fill in an online form for help.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your energy bills, there are small things you can do at home that will help to save money on gas and electricity. Here are out top ten energy saving tips.
Turning your thermostat down by one degree will help to save around 4% on your energy bills.
Also, it’s best to only have the heating on when you need it, rather than keeping it constantly on low, as it works out cheaper.
Doing this could reduce your lighting energy consumption by up to 90%.
And turning the lights off when you leave a room will work out cheaper than leaving them on.
Doing this could save the average family £55 a year in electricity, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Filling cracks in floors and skirting boards and using a draught-excluder in front of your front and back doors could help to save up to £45 a year.
Washing at a lower temperature could save up to £28 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust, while reducing your washes by one cycle a week will add further savings.
Or hang the washing outside on warmer days. Doing this could save £60 a year.
And keep showers shorter if you can. Keeping your shower time to four minutes could save up to £70 a year, while having showers instead of baths could save another £12.
8) Use your microwave more
You’ll save energy because it’s quicker than using the oven or stove. It’s worth considering a slow cooker too, as they’re one of the most energy-efficient kitchen appliances.
9) Unplug all your chargers
Across the country, people are unnecessarily over-charging their mobile phones, MP3 players, and laptops. Instead, as soon as your device is fully charged, try and get into the habit of unplugging it. Not only will this save energy, it also prolongs battery life. It could also save you about £60 a year on your electricity bills.
10) Monitor your usage
Keeping a watchful eye on your consumption levels can help you decide if and when you have to change the way you use energy. Installing a Smart Meter lets you track your consumption with accurate and real time information
Energy companies will pay for insulation, glazing and even new boilers for people claiming certain benefits under the Energy Company Obligation scheme.
While the Boiler Upgrade Scheme offers property owners £5,000 towards the cost of buying and installing an air source heat pump or biomass boiler.
Grants averaging £10,000 are available to certain households to make energy efficiency improvements under the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme.
Find out more in Free money to make your home more energy efficient