Advice on fuel poverty

If you’re worried about increasing energy bills or falling into debt because of energy price increases, you’re not alone. Many households across the country are experiencing the same problem and it is understandably leading to concern and confusion. There are however organisations that can offer you help and advice, and some things you can do at home to help reduce your bills. 

What is causing the price increases?

The wholesale price of gas has risen by approximately 417% since January 2021, partly because of a substantial increase in demand caused by a very cold winter, and the lessening of restrictions relating to COVID-19 around the world, meaning households and industry are using more energy now than over the past couple of years. The situation in Ukraine and Russia is also contributing to the situation, with new restrictions in the delivery of gas across Europe.

What are the consequences of this?

As a result of the wholesale gas price increase, around 30 energy providers in the UK have ceased trading. Many of these could not afford to offer the services to their customers without passing on the significant increase in bills, which they aren’t allowed to do.

The situation has however led to the UK Government and Ofgem (the energy regulator) increasing the Energy Price Cap that’s designed to protect households from increasing energy bills. This price cap has risen from the average household paying £1,277 per year in October 2021 to the average household paying £3,549 per year in October 2022. This is an increase of 178% in 12 months. Ofgem has stated that further increases will occur in January 2023 and possibly in March 2023.

UK Government – Energy Cost of Living Support

To help struggling families alleviate these price increases the UK Government has introduced the following Energy Cost of Living Support payments:

  • £400 Energy Grant - Households will see a discount of £66 applied to their energy bills in October and November, and £67 a month from December to March 2023.
  • £650 Cost of Living Payment - Paid in two (2 installments of £326 first payment in July 2022, the second payment of £324 in the Autumn) for people claiming qualifying low-income benefits on or before 25 May 2022 - includes Universal Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Penson Credit and Tax Credits.
  • £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment - The DWP has confirmed that the £150 disability cost of living payment will be issued from 20 September 2022 and that the vast majority of those eligible should receive it ‘by the beginning of October 2022’.
  • £300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment - An extra £300 will be paid to Pensioners who are entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment for winter 2022 to 2023
  • £150 Council Tax Cost of Living Payment – all households will receive this as a monthly discount on their Council Tax bills for 2022/23

What should I do?

Until now, the advice has always been to switch your energy supplier if you aren’t happy with how much you pay for gas or electricity. The advice has changed recently however because there are no ‘deals’ or ‘new customer incentives’ available from energy companies due to the increased wholesale gas prices. As such, customers are being advised to stay with their current supplier until the market responds to these price increases. If your energy supplier ceases trading or is placed into special administration by Ofgem, you will also be advised to do nothing until a new supplier is assigned to manage your account. In some cases, this may be Ofgem itself.

To keep energy costs down at home, there is a range of things you can do, including:

  • The room thermostat on the central heating should be set at 21°C (70°F) for the living room. Do not waste energy by opening windows - turn down the room thermostat or individual radiator controls instead.
  • Heavy curtains at the windows will help to keep the heat in and closing them as soon as it starts to go dark also helps. But make sure the curtains are tucked behind any radiators at the windows.
  • Use low-energy light bulbs as they use around 75–80% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last for approximately 8,000 hours. LED bulbs are more expensive to buy but use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last up to 50,000 hours.
  • Do not leave appliances on standby. Switch them off at the wall instead when not in use.
  • Wait until you have a full load before using your washing machine or choose the economy or half-load setting if possible. Always choose the shortest cycle that’s practical for your needs.
  • When using an electric oven, turn it off about ten minutes before the end of cooking time – it will continue to cook at the same temperature.
  • Always choose the correct sized saucepan for the amount of food you are cooking. Putting lids on pots will also help to reduce cooking time and therefore save energy. 
  • Take a shorter shower
  • Boil less water in your kettle

Support, help, and advice

For help, advice, and support on all things financial please contact our Money Matters Advice Service at:

Phone: 0300 029 0041
Email: moneymatters.advice@southlanarkshire.gov.uk
Online self-referral form: www.southlanarkshire.gov.uk/mmas

or any of the following Citizen Advice Bureaus at:

Clydesdale
Email www.clydesdalecab.org.uk or phone 01555 664301

Hamilton
Email advice@hamiltoncab.casonline.org.uk or phone 01698 283477

Rutherglen and Cambuslang
Email bureau@rutherglancab.casonline.org.uk or phone 0141 646 3191

East Kilbride
Email administration@eastkilbridecab.casonline.org.uk or phone 01355263698

Alternatively, for free independent energy advice and support, you can also visit Home Energy Scotland or telephone 0808 808 2282.