COVID-19 has meant we’re spending significantly more time at home. That requires more energy usage, meaning our bills go up at a time when a huge proportion of the workforce is on reduced hours, furlough or have lost their jobs.
Some of us have felt the full weight of the pandemic. We don’t need any more anxiety or stress, particularly around our energy bills.
Here at usave we want to alleviate any stress we can, so have put together some information on how your energy bills could be affected by the Coronavirus Crisis.
How has COVID-19 affected energy suppliers?
Energy suppliers weren’t exempt from social distancing and lockdown rules. As such, companies and their employees have had to make their own adjustments.
Since the pandemic started, the energy sector – like many industries – has had to reduce their staff. Resultantly, there simply aren’t as many people working and therefore only critical jobs are being actioned.
Don’t worry – burst gas pipes and broken-down boilers are classed as critical! If you do have an emergency situation, you’re still able to have an energy technician come out to take a look.
Can energy suppliers keep up with demand during COVID-19?
With many of us consuming far more energy than usual, it’s natural to be concerned there won’t be enough supply for all of us. But let us put your mind at ease a bit. Ofgem and the government are working with energy companies to ensure there will be no limitations or blackouts – phew! Energy will continue to be provided.
A huge amount of government money has been put into ensuring gas and electric still gets to households and businesses throughout the crisis, so any essential maintenance of energy infrastructure – as well as rectifying problems with your energy supply in the home – is a priority.
How energy companies have helped consumers save on energy bills
We’ve rounded up a few ways that energy companies have already helped with the fight, working with support from the government.
Support for consumers has included: delayed payments; the creation of alternative payment plans and hardship funds; and increased emergency credit limits on pre-payment limits. More on this below. As a little ear comfort, we can tell you that the government have ensured that anyone with a pre-payment meter would not be cut off from electricity or gas during the pandemic.
COVID-19: What to do if you can’t pay your energy bills
If the Coronavirus pandemic has meant you’re unable to pay your energy bills, there is help available.
To ensure the public, and in particular vulnerable people, are kept safe from additional hardship during the pandemic, the government and energy suppliers have worked together to form an emergency package.
If you’re unable to pay your energy bills, you may be able to delay your payments or have them reduced. You could also see an adjustment to your repayment plan to allow more time to pay and, additionally, hardship funds have been set up and are available in certain situations. As we mentioned earlier, energy companies have already been rolling out this support.
Speak to your energy supplier about your circumstances. They are obliged to be sympathetic to the impact of the current crisis and should work with you to come to an arrangement.
You should always check the government website for the latest information and advice too, as you could qualify for additional grants, schemes or subsidies. If you still can’t keep up with your payments and are unable to access government support, then speak to Citizens Advice Bureau or call the National Debt Line.
Advice for businesses struggling with energy bills
Businesses have been significantly affected by Coronavirus, so financial support has also been rolled out for them with respect to energy payments. There are various loans, grants and tax reliefs available through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – you can discover the juicy intricacies yourself on the government website.
But you should also speak with your business energy supplier to see what support they can offer. As businesses start to reopen, energy consumption will increase. However, many businesses will be on a serious backfoot after months of no income and a costly energy bill is the last thing needed as companies slowly begin rebuilding. Form a dialogue with your energy provider: you might be able to come to an agreement or an adjusted payment plan.
Depending on your tariff, you might be able to switch providers. With energy companies themselves feeling the effects of COVID-19, there may be some cheap energy deals on offer.
Will energy prices increase?
How long the government’s emergency package will continue for is to be determined, and whether we eventually see a rise in energy prices depends on any number of variables. As we get back on our feet, it seems we’re safe from explosive price hikes at least for now.
Bear in mind when your contract ends, too. Should money be tight, consider switching to an energy deal with a better tariff – you can compare rates and suppliers using our energy comparison tool.