On a purely personal level, I understand concerns around energy costs for pensioners and the most at-risk individuals when it comes to fuel poverty. From my conversations in Westminster, I also understand this has been reflected by many, whether parliamentary colleagues or Ministers.
Therefore, if you, or you know personally of anyone struggling, please do get them to contact me so I can do my best to provide signposting and guidance towards relevant assistance. Please email email@example.com, and I am happy to get back to you.
Global gas prices are high due to various factors, including an increase in demand following the end of lockdowns in various countries and in return economies reopening; a cold winter in the UK; high demand in Asia for liquified natural gas (LNG) transported globally by freight which has meant that far less LNG has reached Europe; and weather events in the US limiting supply to Europe. With reduced variety of supply globally and much higher than anticipated demand, high wholesale gas prices have subsequently driven an increase in wholesale power prices, with a few short-term markets trading at, or near, record levels.
I am pleased that the Government has been clear that protecting consumers, particularly vulnerable or low-income households, is their main priority, and have introduced or continued such support.
- Winter Fuel Payments are the largest benefit paid to pensioners, and will continue to be available to all pensioners: Winter Fuel Payment: Eligibility - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Cold Weather Payments are available: Cold Weather Payment - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Warm Home Discount provides over one million vulnerable pensioners with a £140 rebate on their energy bills: Warm Home Discount Scheme - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- The Government extended the Energy Price Cap until at least the end of 2021, protecting 15 million consumers from sudden increases in global prices and overcharging on their energy bills, and loyal customers have been protected from poor value tariffs.
I am assured that Ofgem and the Government have been working closely with the energy industry and consumer groups to support customers through this difficult time and I urge anyone worried about paying their energy bills to contact their supplier and access the support available.
Thinking about the past, wholesale prices fell in the summer of 2020, after the first lockdown and Ofgem reacted by reducing the level of the cap by £84 for winter 2020. There is no reason why similar circumstances could not be repeated in the future, but I do note the current outlook being spoken about by industry observers.
As a final note, customers may be able to reduce their energy bills by shopping around for a better deal. Changing energy provider has never been easier, either online or over the phone, with comparison sites providing useful information on the best deals. Almost 500,000 energy customers switched to a new supplier each month in 2020, according to Energy UK.
Useful links to help with energy bills this Winter:
- Citizens Advice has published useful guidance on switching energy suppliers online: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-a-better-energy-deal/switching-energy-supplier/
- Energy UK’s brief on the actions the energy industry is taking to support customers: Energy sector offers helping hand | Energy UK (energy-uk.org.uk)
- NEA provide a free support service on energy bills, benefits advice and income maximisation: WASH Advice - NEA
- Simply Energy provide impartial and independent advice on heating your home: Simple Energy Advice
- EDF Warm Home discount: https://www.edfenergy.com/for-home/help-support/warm-home-discount
- Leicestershire County Council also have a Warm Homes Fund: https://www.leicestershire.gov.uk/health-and-wellbeing/seasonal-health/leicestershire-warm-homes-fund
Home Energy Improvements
As part of the Clean Growth Strategy to make as many homes as possible reach EPC Band C or above, there are grants and support available for home energy improvements such as cavity wall and loft insultation.
- Find national and local energy grants here: Find energy grants and ways to save energy in your home - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Hinckley and Rugby Building Society provides funding for customers to carry out green home improvements: Green mortgages | Hinckley & Rugby Building Society (hrbs.co.uk)
- As part of the Smart Energy GB campaign, you can request a free Smart Meter from your energy supplier to measure and display how much gas/electricity is being used in the home, to reduce energy waste and save money.
- Under the Government’s Energy Company Obligation, energy suppliers fund the installation of energy efficiency measures in households: Energy Company Obligation (ECO) - Support for improving your home | Ofgem
- Which? guide to the Energy Companies Obligation: Energy Company Obligation (ECO) - Which?