We knew it was coming: first off the blocks was Scottish Power, hiking energy bills by up to 19 per cent last month. Then came British Gas, raising its own customers’ gas and electricity costs by up to 18 per cent. Scottish & Southern followed at a similar level soon after. E.ON was next.
The moves look set to add up to £200 to the average household’s annual energy bills and are expected to tip more households into fuel poverty this winter. But there are ways to limit the pain. Londoners should snap up a new scheme to provide 55,000 homes with a free energy efficiency test.
Mayor Boris Johnson’s RE:NEW programme is being provided to homeowners between now and next May. It will involve a qualified energy advisor visiting homes for about 90 minutes, providing tailored energy and water saving advice, and free energy-saving devices like low energy light bulbs, tap aerators, radiator panels, stand-by switches, draught-proofing and cavity wall insulation.
Find out when the scheme is operating in your borough at london.gov.uk/priorities/environment/climate-change/energy-efficiency/RENEW/get-involved - then book online or by calling 0800 978 8332.
Households should also take advantage of the sweeteners energy firms are offering to try to deflect attention from their price hikes. British Gas, for example, is providing free loft and wall cavity insulation for energy and HomeCare customers. There are also lots of energy-saving grants available. Find out those in your area at http://bit.ly/drlZnU.
Unless you’re keen to fix your bill, there’s little point switching to a cheaper supplier right now: those who haven’t hiked rates are expected to do shortly. The cheapest dual-fuel tariffs for an average user in London include EDF’s Online Saver v12 at around £974.14 a year and Npower’s Sing online 23 at £980.55.
Top fixed-price deals include EDF’s Fixer saver v2 at £1014.74 a year and OVO’s New Energy Fixed offer at £1060.08, according to comparison site GoCompare.
Bear in mind it’s often cheaper to opt for dual fuel (buying gas and electricity from the same supplier) but check as that’s not always the case. Online tariffs also tend to be cheapest, and there are discounts for paying via monthly direct debit. Carry out a meter reading every time you receive a bill as utility firms’ estimates are often wrong.