What to do if your energy bill is high

The Ofgem price cap is now £1,834 a year, and this will change to £1,928 a year on 1 January 2024. This is based on a household with typical usage on their supplier’s standard variable rate, you might pay more or less than this, depending on how much energy you use.

The Energy Price Cap covers domestic energy customers across the UK. If you don’t benefit from the price cap because you use off-grid fuel, are part of a heat network or live in a park home, the government announced extra support which ended in May. 

What help is available for higher energy bills?

While wholesale energy prices are coming down, the cost of living remains high. There are a few government schemes you may be eligible for to help soften the impact of increased costs of living. 

Cost of Living Payments for 2023/24

Three Cost of Living Payments are to be sent out across 2023/24 for people on means tested benefits, as well as extra payments for pensioners and people with disabilities. These could help you with high energy bills. Like the previous Cost of Living Payments, these will go directly into your bank account and you shouldn’t need to apply for them. Any messages asking you to apply for a Cost of Living Payment might be a scam.

You’re likely to qualify if you’re getting any of these benefits: 

  • Universal Credit 
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance 
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance 
  • Income Support 
  • Working Tax Credit 
  • Child Tax Credit 
  • Pension Credit
  • Personal Independence Payment  
  • Disability Living Allowance 
  • Adult Disability Payment (in Scotland)
  • Child Disability Payment (in Scotland) 
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • War Pension Mobility Payment 
  • Attendance Allowance 
  • Constant Attendance Allowance. 

If you’re not getting these benefits and are living on a low income, it’s important to make sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to.

Take a few minutes to check which benefits you can claim and how much you could get a month with our Benefits Calculator. 

Three Cost of Living payments will be made to people getting these benefits:

  • £300 – second Cost of Living Payment – between 31 October and 19 November 2023
  • £250-600 – combined Winter Fuel Payment and pensioner Cost of Living Payment
  • £299 – third Cost of Living Payment – during Spring 2024.

The first Cost of Living Payment (£301) was made 25 April 2023 – 17 May 2023.  Disability Payment (£150) was paid between 20 June 2023 and 4 July 2023.

For more help with the cost of living, the government’s Help for HouseholdsOpens in a new window has energy-saving tips and information about the payments and extra support you could be entitled to.  

If you use oil, liquefied petroleum gas or off-grid fuels

Households that aren’t on the gas grid and use alternative fuels like liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or heating oil were given an extra payment of £200, to compensate for the high cost of fuel, by Direct Debit or credit.

If you have a smart prepayment meter, the £200 payment should have been credited by your electricity provider automatically.  

  • The government also extended £400 of support to households that couldn't access the Energy Bills Support Scheme payment from a domestic electricity supplier, for example, because you live in a park home, use off-grid power or have community heating. 
  • For ideas on ways to cut costs, see our guide Help if you heat your home using heating oil or liquefied petroleum gas

If you're on a prepayment meter

If you have a traditional prepayment meter, you should have received £400 of help by getting one voucher or Special Action Message (SAM) a month for six months to use towards top-ups. The vouchers were sent using the contact details your energy company has on file. 

The scheme closed on 30 June 2023 and up to one in four vouchers had not been redeemed by April. If you’re on a prepayment meter and didn’t receive a voucher or SAM, contact your supplier to check your contact details are up to date. 

The Energy Price Cap will be applied automatically by your supplier. There’s no need to apply and you won’t need any vouchers.  

Prices for prepayment meters have been reduced to be the same as those for people on the Energy Price Guarantee paying by Direct Debit, saving an average household £45 a year.  

Should I switch suppliers for a cheaper deal?

If your fixed deal has come to an end or you’ve been moved to a new supplier, it’s tempting to look for a new energy company where you can make savings. At the moment, most of the fixed deal offers that are cheaper than the price cap are for existing customers.

However, experts are predicting that people will be able to switch to tariffs that are lower than the price cap soon, so check with your supplier and keep an eye out for better deals by using comparison websites and be ready to switch when offers become available. 

How can I save money on my energy bills?

Simple things like making sure you unplug phone chargers, not leaving devices on standby and using energy-efficient light bulbs are the first steps. Remember, if you use more, you’ll pay more.

You can also improve the energy efficiency of your home with double glazing and insulation.

Find out more in our guides:

What should you do if you think your Direct Debit amount is wrong?

As energy prices go up, your monthly payments increase too. However, if you think the payments you’re being asked to make are too much and you already have a lot of credit in your account, you can ask your supplier to change them. The Ofgem code for suppliers that applies in England, Scotland and Wales states that they should set a fair Direct Debit and be able to explain to you why that amount is reasonable. If they can’t, you can ask your supplier to refund some of your credit.  

MoneySavingExpert has a calculator to help you work out what your monthly payment should beOpens in a new window  

Winter energy bills are usually much higher than summer ones, so instead of charging you for what you use each month suppliers will often take your yearly usage and divide it into 12 chunks. This is to spread the cost more evenly. This could explain why you’re being charged for more than you’re using.

Check your bills are accurate by taking regular meter readings. If you have a smart meter your readings are sent off automatically.  

Other help

Ofgem helps you find schemes, grants and benefits that will help with both the cost of billsOpens in a new window and energy-saving measures.

If you live in Scotland, find out what extra financial support you might getOpens in a new window from Home Energy Scotland.

If you live in Wales, find out what extra financial support you could getOpens in a new window from the Discretionary Assistance Fund. Find out about energy saving tips and home improvement grantsOpens in a new window 

If you live in Northern Ireland, for more nidirect has energy saving tipsOpens in a new window 

Use this checklist to keep costs down: 

  • compare prices and don’t be afraid to haggle 

  • consider joining or setting up an oil club to get further discounts 

  • ask about flexible payment options 

  • buy in the warmer months 

  • keep your tank well-maintained  

  • install an efficient boiler.

Claim all the benefits you’re entitled to (especially Pension Credit or Universal Credit) because these will passport you to further help, including Warm Home Discount worth £150 a year.

What happens if my energy supplier goes out of business?

While it’s rare for a big energy supplier to go bust, lots of small energy companies have gone bust recently.

If this happens, the ‘Ofgem safety net’ makes sure you're not left without energy. The safety net moves you automatically to a new deal with a different energy supplier.

If your energy supplier has stopped trading, it’s important to not switch immediately. Instead, wait for your new provider to contact you. Your new supplier will be chosen by Ofgem, which can take several weeks.

If you're already in the process of switching, it will still go through.

Make sure you take a meter reading so that you’re ready for when your new supplier contacts you.

It’s also worth keeping old energy bills and waiting until your new supplier is appointed before cancelling any Direct Debits.

Citizens Advice has more information about what you can do if your account is in debt or in credit when your supplier goes bustOpens in a new window

What if I owe money or am in credit and my supplier goes bust?

Any credit on your account will be protected. The balance is transferred to your new supplier, who will pay you any outstanding credit – minus any energy you have used but not been billed for. 

It’s important you don’t switch tariff or supplier until your account is moved to the new supplier. You might find it harder to get any money you’re owed if you switch before this happens.

If you owe money and your supplier goes bust, your debt will be transferred to the new provider and you’ll still have to pay.

Find out more at Ofgem on how you’re protected and what you need to do as a customerOpens in a new window

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