Practical Advice on Fuel Poverty

Fuel Poverty affects 2.7 million households and represents those spending more than 10% of their income on heating. By 2015 this figure is expected to reach 3 million.

The social, financial and health effects are considerable. The Hills Review demonstrated a link to 27,000 deaths every year and an even greater number of cases of serious ill-health.

Practical Tips to Save Energy

There are measures that people can take to help reduce their energy bills whilst staying warm.  Below are some simple energy savings tips that anyone can do to help reduce energy bills and maintain a healthy and heated home.

  • Save £50-£86 a year on your energy bill by turning everything off when you are not using them and removing standby mode.
  • Save £57 a year by fully loading your washing machine before use and dry clothes outside instead of using a tumble dryer.
  • Save £20 a year by using a laptop instead of a desktop PC as they use 6 times less energy.
  • Save £3 a year per lightbulb and £55 over each of their lifetimes by switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs of the same brightness.
  • Save £55 every year by turning down your thermostat by just 1 degree.
  • £40 can be saved a year by having a well fitted insulation jacket around your hot water tank to stop heat escaping.
  • Set your hot water tank to 600C/1400F. Any higher wastes energy and money.
  • Simply close your curtains at night to stop heat escaping.
  • If you have gas central heating, use it for your hot water in summer and winter, as it is generally cheaper than using an electric immersion heater.
  • If you have adjustable radiator valves, turn them down (but not off) in rooms not in use.
  • Set heating controls so that your property is not heated when you are out for long periods of time.
  • Close windows when the heating is on – but remember to leave vents open to prevent condensation.
  • Only put in as much water as you need when boiling the kettle; but always cover the element.
  • If your toilet has a dual flush use the low flush where possible. If it doesn’t, use a water displacement device (a plastic bottle filled with water will do). You could save as much as 2,000 litres per person per year.
  • Keep your fridge/freezer at the correct temperature. This is 2°C to 3°C for a fridge and -15°C for a freezer.
  • Don’t leave the door open for longer than necessary as cold air escapes. Each minute the door is open takes three minutes of energy to cool down again.
  • If your fridge or freezer is not full then putting newspaper and carrier bags in the gaps saves money by reducing the air space needed to keep cool.

Energy companies offer numerous ways to pay energy bills. Some methods will be more appropriate than others so think carefully about which one is best. Two of the most common ways are:

  • Direct Debit
    • Useful for people who have trouble budgeting. Money is taken directly from a bank account on a set day each month. Companies often offer a discount for paying by direct debit.
  • Key Meters
    • Allows residents to control how much energy they are using; keeping costs under control. There no quarterly bills and no need to take meter readings.

Warm Home Discount Scheme

The Warm Home Discount scheme is a four-year scheme that runs from April 2011 to March 2015. It is designed to help low-income and vulnerable households with energy costs.

There are four elements to the scheme:

  • Core Group
    • Energy suppliers give a discount to their older customers on low incomes based on Government criteria.
  • Broader Group
    • Targeted support at low-income and vulnerable households who are at risk of fuel poverty.  Suppliers have discretion over the eligibility criteria for this scheme.
  • Legacy Spend
    • Energy suppliers provide support through discounted and social tariffs and rebates.
  • Industry Initiatives
    • An energy supplier-funded programme assisting those at risk of fuel poverty with a range of support, including benefit entitlement checks, debt advice and energy efficiency measures.

The energy suppliers participating in the Warm Home Discount Scheme are:

Atlantic Sainsbury’s Energy
British Gas Scottish Gas
EDF Energy Scottish Hydro
E.ON ScottishPower
Equipower Southern Electric
Manweb SSE
M&S Energy Swalec
NPower Utility Warehouse

Eligibility Criteria

Core Group discount

Eligibility for the Core Group is linked specifically to the type of benefits received.

In winter 2012/13, you may qualify for this energy discount if on 21 July 2012 you are:

  • Aged under 80 and receiving only the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (no Savings Credit).
  • Aged 80 or over and are receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, (even if you get Savings Credit as well).

The following must also be satisfied:

  • Your electricity supplier is participating in the scheme.
  • You or your partner is named on your electricity bill.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and electricity suppliers have shared some limited information about customers to ensure that those eligible are automatically enrolled onto this scheme and receive the discount.  If you feel someone has is not included but should be; contact the energy supplier.

If a resident qualifies they will receive a letter from the Government in winter 2012/13 detailing the level of discount.

Broader Group assistance

Other groups such as low-income families and those with long-term illnesses and disabilities may also need assistance with their energy costs.

Suppliers have been asked to provide a set amount of support to a ‘broader group’ of their customers, which will receive a discount of £130 for 2012/13.

The participating suppliers in this Broader Group scheme are:

Atlantic Scottish Hydro
British Gas Southern Electric
EDF Energy ScottishPower
NPower Swalec

Eligibility criteria for the Broader Group scheme are unique to each supplier. Please see here for links and phone numbers for each supplier.

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