One of the largest household expenses is now gas and/or electricity. Although prices have decreased from 1 October 2023 they are still much higher than they were 18 months ago.
For an average household paying by Direct Debit the price cap will be £1,923 per year. Average consumption means 12,000kWh of gas and 2,900kWh of electricity per year. You can have a look on your most recent bill to find out your average annual consumption.
At the moment, there still aren’t any better deals on the open market and so shopping around and switching isn’t a solution at the moment although we are hopeful that this will become available again in the coming months.
There may still be other assistance for you and your family from your energy provider.
Priority Services Register
The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service provided by all energy suppliers for customers who may be more vulnerable. This could be for a number of reasons such as a health condition or disability in the household, needing to rely on electricity for medication or mobility aids, young children or elderly adults in the household.
Most common reasons for being on the Priority Services Register include:
- You’re over state pension age
- You’re disabled or have a long-term medical condition
- You’re recovering from an injury
- You have a hearing or sight condition
- You have a mental health condition
- You are pregnant or have children under five
- You have extra communication needs – this could be that you don’t understand English very well or need letters in large print
- Your vulnerability does not need to be permanent. For example, it could be that you have had an operation and have recently come out of hospital, but it will take a few months to fully recover or that you are having a period of poor mental health.
Many energy companies are proactive about asking their customers whether they have any sort of vulnerability however, it is advisable to check with your energy supplier that you are on their Priority Services Register. Depending on your energy supplier, you may be able to apply online or you may need to call them and speak to them about this.
Whilst being on the Priority Services Register doesn’t provide any financial assistance it does mean that your energy provider is aware of your circumstances and vulnerabilities, and they should therefore take extra measures to support you should you need assistance or in the event of a power cut.
For example, if you fall into debt with your energy bills one option that an energy provider has is to move you onto prepayment meters. If you have a smart meter, this can be done remotely. However, if your energy company knows that you have mobility issues, and this would make it hard for you to get to a shop to top up your meter then it would be unreasonable for them to change you to a prepayment meter.
Other help that can be provided includes:
- Wherever possible, advanced notice of scheduled power cuts. If you rely on your energy supply for medical reasons your network operator can tell you about planned power cuts. For example, when they plan engineering work
- Priority support in an emergency – such as providing heaters in an emergency power cut or generators if there is a severe medical need
- Priority support when calling your network operator
- Identification and password scheme. This could include arranging a password or agreed on picture cards if callers need to visit or contact you. This way you can feel confident they are genuine
- Nominee scheme. You can nominate someone to receive communications and bills from your supplier. For example, a family member, carer or someone you trust
- Help with prepayment meter access. For example, moving a meter if you can’t safely get to it to top up
- Regular meter reading services. For example, if nobody can read your meter
- Accessible information. For example, account info and bills in large print or braille
- Help reconnecting your gas supply, if you need it
If you live in your own property, suppliers can offer free gas safety checks every 12 months. You can request a safety check if you get a means-tested benefit and either:
- live with a child under five years old
- live alone or with others and have reached state pension age
- live alone or with others and are disabled or chronically ill
- live with others who have reached state pension age or are disabled, chronically ill or under 18 years old.
Disconnection of Supply
Whilst it is legally possible for suppliers to disconnect either gas or electricity supply to domestic properties this is an option of absolute last resort and is very, very rarely used.
According to Ofgem, in 2022 there were only 6 domestic gas disconnections due to energy debts and only 13 electricity disconnections due to energy debts in the whole of Great Britain. Ofgem believes that there are 23 million gas consumers and 28 million electricity consumers in Great Britain.
That works out as a 0.000026% and a 0.000046% rate of disconnection because of energy debts.
Warm Home Discount
The Warm Home Discount is worth £150 and is either credited to your account – usually your electricity account because not everyone has a gas supply or sent to you in the form of vouchers that you can top-up with.
The 2023/24 scheme is not open yet and is due to open in October 2023.
From this year, suppliers with over 1,000 domestic customers have to operate the scheme.
You will qualify for the Warm Home Discount if you have a low income and high energy costs.
You should meet the low-income criteria if, on a specific date, usually in July or August, you are in receipt of one of the following benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income Support
- the ‘Savings Credit’ part of Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
You may also qualify if you get either Child or Working Tax Credit and your annual household income is below a certain threshold.
High Energy Costs
In 2022/23, it appeared that information such as the size of your home, the energy rating of your home (if known), and the age of your home was used to identify whether your property had high energy costs.
Customers who are eligible for the Warm Home Discount will be written to between November and January and the discount should be applied or sent to you by the 31 March 2024.