Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change Greg Barker has responded to a uSwitch survey on consumer energy debt, which found that approximately 20 per cent of households in the UK owe money to energy suppliers.
The energy minister stated: “We know many consumers are really feeling the pinch due to rising energy prices and the very cold winter. Anyone worried about paying their bills or staying warm can call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699”.
Mr Barker suggested that households can reduce their energy bills by taking meter readings on a regular basis and using price comparison websites to find the cheapest or most cost-effective tariffs. The Conservative MP added that the Warm Home Discount Scheme should provide help for around two million homes in the UK this year, while the most vulnerable households may be eligible for additional support during the winter.
The uSwitch report revealed that a little over 20 per cent of households in the UK suffer from energy debt. In total, households owe around 637 million to suppliers, almost a quarter of which accumulated in the last year, during which time domestic energy debt rose by 6 per cent.
Ann Robinson, consumer policy director at uSwitch, said: “The soaring number of households in debt to energy suppliers is a clear indication of the pressure people are coming under just to meet the cost of their basic bills”.
According to recent data, the average dual-fuel energy bill in the UK has now reached 1,353 per annum. As the cost of living continues to rise in the UK, more households are expected to fall into fuel poverty. And energy debt will increase as a result.
Energy consumers can take steps to control their bills, but the poorest households can only do so much. Installing loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and double glazing can reduce the amount of heat that escapes a home, thereby enabling occupiers to turn down the thermostat. New central heating boilers and controls, if installed to replace old, inefficient systems, can result in significant savings, while solar panels provide a free (excluding installation and maintenance costs) source of renewable energy. A number of energy efficiency upgrades for the home can be obtained via the Green Deal financing scheme.