People all over the UK are being told of the rising prices for Gas and Electricity. Here we explain some of the reasons behind this and the steps can make to protect yourself from rising prices.
Rises in the price of energy supplies have caused political controversy this week, as the Prime Minister announced utility companies would be force to provide, or offer, the lowest available tariffs to consumers. He is accused of making it up on the spot though, as neither the energy secretary nor the energy companies knew about it beforehand.
Energy prices are rising in the UK due to a variety of factors, but the chief blame is ascribed to rising global energy prices. Since 2005 more gas has been imported from abroad than was produced in the UK, and prices have risen every year since. Up to 50% of Britain’s energy is from burning gas, and much is bought from mainland Europe for and during winter. It is supplied through pipelines from Norway and Belgium.
The price of gas is linked very closely on mainland Europe with the price of oil. Increased usage from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China’s ever-expanding economy in particular) means there is more demand for oil all over the globe, pushing prices up. Uncertainty over the political situation with Libya during the Arab Spring, or with Iran, also caused oil price rises. And as they go up, so does gas prices for Europe – and Britain.
Nearly a third of Britain’s energy comes from burning coal, while less than a fifth comes from renewable and nuclear sources.
Energy suppliers in Britain say global prices and distribution maintenance costs have forced their hand, but there are plenty of different tariffs and price plans that consumers can take advantage of if they want to switch their supplier.
The Direct Debit Guarantee
The cheapest way to pay energy bills is by direct debit – utility suppliers, like most companies, encourage this as it is an easy to manage and collect for them, reducing their costs so they can offer a discount by this method.
Direct Debits benefit consumers by allowing them to have a (generally) fixed amount come out each month, which is a twelfth of your estimated annual usage – estimated based on the previous year. You will most likely pay more than you use in summer – but similarly pay less than you use in winter, so it allows for more consistent budgeting throughout the year.
If you do not supply the company with meter readings, they can continue to charge the agreed amount as there is no information to the contrary – and although your account may be in credit, the DD amount will not be automatically reduced, so you will be continued to be charged, with the credit acting as backup in case your usage steeply climbs.
Ofgem, the regulatory body monitoring energy suppliers, reckon that up to £55 is made by energy suppliers every year per customer, because people continue to pay the direct debit without monitoring their actual usage, compared to accepting the supplier’s estimate.
The Big Six
Competition between energy companies, particularly the ‘big six’ who are British Gas, NPower, Scottish Power, Eon, EDF and Scottish & Southern Electric, is encouraged by Ofgem. Last month, Ofgem relaxed the rules on switching from one supplier to another, to allow those with up to £500 arrears with one company to switch, whereas previously the limit was £200 arrears; and to allow those on prepayment meters to switch too.
Between them, there are estimated to be literally thousands of different tariffs for electricity and gas supplies offered by the big six. Ofgem are seeking to have that reduced to four, for each fuel, from each supplier, to enable people to have a better understanding of the offers available.
There are fears that the government’s plan to enforce offering the lowest tariff may, however, harm consumer interests. If the big six are forced to offer consumers their lowest tariff, they may decide to do away with or reduce those tariffs, and replace them with higher fees – in essence making their ‘cheapest’ tariffs less cheap.
Cheaper and discounted introductory offers from the big six are subsidised by the payments from the two-thirds of their customers who pay standard tariffs, who often don’t question the amount they are being charged by DD.
Make sure you are not among those overpaying for your gas and electricity – contact Harrington Brooks today to see what savings you can make on the energy payments.
Utility Bills Benefits and Grants
We have product a guide on our website explaining thee several benefits and grants aimed at those on lower incomes not only to help with costs, but also to pay for home improvements to help lower energy costs.
See harringtonbrooks.co.uk/advice-centre/utility-bill-benefits for full details.