Energy Saving and Fuel Poverty
Turning down the heat
Energy prices remain in the news, and blame is being hurled about like a barrage of snowballs, but it seems nothing will be done to stop the rapid hikes.
The best nuggets of advice people are being given are: shop around for the best prices, save energy wherever possible and to contact their water and utility companies as soon as possible if they are struggling to pay bills.
Which? rates energy companies
Good Energy is the best energy supplier, according to the 2013 Which? Switch energy satisfaction survey, followed by Ecotricity and then Ebico and Utility Warehouse.
The results show that small providers are streets ahead of Britain's six biggest energy suppliers, British Gas, EDF, Eon,Npower, SSE and Scottish Power. Npower languished at the bottom of the table with a customer satisfaction score of just 39%. Read more
Are energy companies more responsible than supermarkets?
Britain's biggest energy companies are more socially responsible than supermarkets in their treatment of cash-strapped customers, according to the industry's trade body.
Energy UK said the help offered by its members to pensioners and low-income households was the equivalent of giving shoppers £135 per year. "If you are food-poor, there is no responsibility on supermarkets to give £130 towards your shop, but the energy companies will give a discount, and there is assistance available if your home is badly insulated," said Angela Knight, the chief executive of Energy UK. Read more here.
Freeze prices, not customers
Ed Miliband put energy prices into the headlines during the Labour Conference when he stated that his party would freeze prices for 20 months if it wins the 2015 election. In an interview with The Independent, the Labour leader said that lobbyists employed directly by the energy companies should be reined in and their dealings with the Government made more open. The Opposition will also demand a code of conduct with 'real sanctions' and powers to prevent conflicts of interest when people switch between government and lobbying firms. Read more.
Energy firms raised prices despite drop in wholesale costs
Bosses of the 'Big Six' faced MPs as figures show profit per household went up substantially during times when electricity actually got cheaper. Read what The Guardian had to say here.
Can green taxes ultimately cut our bills?
Green taxes have been blames for some of the prices rises, but in his blog in The Guardian, Chris Huhne argues that by encouraging the energy companies to diversify away from fossil fuels, we'll be able to save £166 per year by 2020. Read more here.
Robin Webster's blog on the The Carbon Brief looks at government figures and aks can the government really reduce greenhouse gas emissions by four fifths, while maintaining energy security and keeping prices down?
Smart metres need to be harder to hack
Smart metres are often suggested as a way to keep to a heating budget, but concerns have been raised about their security. Read The Guardian's report here. Money Supermarket looks at the pros and cons of prepayment meters here.
The cost of cold homes
Cold homes cost the NHS in England £1.36 billion every year as older people suffer health problems, according to Age UK. This feature in Inside Housing is from 2012, but the problems remain the same.
A helping hand from the industry
The Home Heat Helpline advises people worried about paying their energy bills and keeping warm during the winter. It gives advice to low-income households in urgent need of heating help and advice. (Tel: 0800 33 66 99, calls are free and the lines are open 9am-6pm Monday to Fridays.) It also takes calls from other organisations such as the CAB and housing associations.
The Home Heat Helpline was launched by the Energy Retail Association in 2005. The ERA merged with the Association of Electricity Producers and the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy to become EnergyUK in April 2012.
Since it began, the Helpline has received more than 300,000 calls from across Britain. The orgnisation claims that almost callers said that they had cut down their energy bills after calling, and many more were able to access benefits and grants.
Who can help?
Click on the image to download a comprehensive directory of schemes set up to help people struggling to pay their bills. Organised by region and supplier it is produced by Auriga.
If your clients are in difficulty, they should be encouraged to speak directly to their own supplier. Many have helpful schemes and grants available.
Thanet District Citizens Advice Bureau operates a national EDF Trust-funded project to offer assistance to clients in making applications to the trust, and seeking money advice.
The EDF Energy Trust is a charitable grant which can help current domestic EDF customers repay gas and electric debt, access help for the costs of Bankruptcy or DRO fees, or assist with the cost of energy efficient white goods. Clients should call the designated project phone line 01843 229696.
Make sure your clients know about the Warm Homes Discount Scheme, which offers a £135 discount on electricity bills for older people, and some suppliers also offer this discount to people on a low income.
These days there are almost as many switching sites as there are energy providers, clients should be encouraged to look for companies that adhere to the Ofgem Confidence Code. Ofgem has a list of key points to bear in mind when shopping around for a better deal.
The Energy Saving Trust’s website is packing with tips on saving energy and water. Your clients can also call the Energy Saving Advice Service in 0300 123 1234 for independent advice. (Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 2pm, national rate call)
Turn2us has a detailed page of advice on fuel poverty and what to do if someone is struggling to pay their energy bill.
The CAB has a page of advice for those struggling to pay fuel bills
AgeUK gives tips for staying warm and healthy this winter.
Keep Warm, keep well: advice from the NHS states that being cold can adversely affect health and gives tips about how to stay warm.
Here's an example of good practice: Gallions Housing Association has a neat graphic on its website of an energy-saving house to help tenants see how they can save energy. See more here and click on each room to see the video. Residents can also download an energy-saving guide