COVID-19 is affecting all aspects of business. The government has advised that employees who are able to work from home should do so, and it is expected that many people’s domestic energy bills will rise over the coming months.

Around 16.8 million people will be working from home this week, according to USwitch, increasing weekly domestic energy bills by £52 million.

This article contains the latest government business support and information with regards to energy usage, and some top tips on how to keep your bills under control during the next few weeks and months of self-isolation and social distancing.

Energy supply

The government has agreed emergency measures with all UK domestic energy suppliers as part of its COVID-19 package of support, and the National Grid has promised plans to prevent anyone being cut off.

Pre-payment customers

Anyone with a pre-payment or pay-as-you-go meter who is unable to credit their account can contact their energy provider to discuss other payment options - this might include nominating a third party for credit top ups, having a discretionary fund added to their credit, or being sent a pre-loaded top up card so that their supply is not interrupted.

If your household operates a pre-payment or pay-as-you-go meter, we suggest contacting your energy provider as soon as possible.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) has issued detailed advice for pre-payment customers.  

Pre-paid smart meter customers

Pre-paid smart meter customers should be able to top up remotely, by phone, mobile app, or online. If you have any issues with your smart meter, contact your energy provider.

Any energy customer in financial distress will be able to get additional help on debt repayments – this could include repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused. If you are concerned about your ability to pay, we suggest contacting your energy provider as soon as possible.

Disconnection of credit meters suspended

Energy suppliers have been asked by government to ensure that customers don’t face additional financial or other stresses with their energy supply during this period. Disconnection of credit meters is therefore completely suspended.  

Energy price cap

Ofgem has lowered the energy price cap, as of 1st April 2020, from £1,179 per year to £1,162 – a reduction of £17.

Homeworking

The government has advised homeworking if the nature of your business permits it. This poses an issue for businesses that do not have the necessary equipment or systems of communication and support in place.

It is possible to remotely attend meetings, give presentations, collaboratively edit documents, conduct training and demonstrate products using web conferencing software, to keep your business running. Some of the best free options available are Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype for Business, Slack and Cisco WebEx. Choose the software that is most suited to your business needs.

If you return to your workplace at all over the next few weeks for whatever reason, ensure that all appliances, IT equipment, machinery or any other electrical equipment is switched off at the mains when you leave. In the event of tighter government restrictions on movement, this reduces fire risk and will reduce unnecessary business energy usage.

Energy bill reduction tips

During self-isolation, the last thing anyone wants to worry about is an increase in their energy bills, so we have put together a few top tips to help keep domestic bills manageable.

  1. Electricity usage
  • Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug electronic devices when not in use.
  • Completely turn off your IT equipment at the end of the day, and don’t use standby.
  • If multiple members of the household are working from home, and only where the nature of your work permits it, working in the same room reduces the number of lights on – it is also beneficial to stay social during self-isolation.
  1. Heating
  • Try to ‘zone’ your household heating – turn down/off radiators in rooms which aren’t in frequent use and keep the doors closed. This creates ‘heating zones’ – areas of the household that share heating demand, whilst reducing unnecessary heat consumption in unoccupied rooms.
  • Reducing the thermostat by just ‎1°C can save up to 8% of your heating use!
  • Wear more clothes and warming clothing, instead of turning up the thermostat.
  • As summer approaches and we move into warmer weather, heating demand will be going down. Remember that opening a window is better than using an electric fan or air conditioning.
  1. Food
  • 250,000 tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year in the UK is still edible - that’s enough for 650 million meals.
  • Reduce food waste and make food go further by planning meals, freezing the excess and reusing leftovers.
  • Cook multiple meals in the oven at once, don’t turn it on and off for every meal.

Support for your business during tough times

Remember to visit the Buckinghamshire Business First COVID-19 business support hub for all the latest information, support and advice regarding COVID-19, including grant funding available for Buckinghamshire businesses.

Read this Buckinghamshire Business First guide on how businesses can get set up for homeworking and ensure their employees are happy and healthy while working from home.

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