Problems With Energy Bills?

15 Apr

Hi all, here at Leeds Fuel Poverty Action we’ve encountered a few people who are having problems with a particular energy supplier. They haven’t received an energy bill for at least a year or more and are now being hit with huge bills to pay! Our research into this has shown that many people are experiencing this problem or are in similar situations, so we thought we’d share with you the information we’ve found about who you can go to for advice and what options are available.

Follow the links to read the full information, useful snippets are posted underneath to give you an idea of what can be found

 

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/24/npower-bill-shock-economy-customers

“Under Ofgem rules, if your supplier is at fault it should not demand payment for unbilled energy used more than 12 months before the error was detected. However, each case is considered on an individual basis. The “back-billing rule” will apply when, for example, your supplier hasn’t acted on a query or fault you’ve raised regarding your account and a large debt has built up as a result, or it failed to bill you even though you have requested a bill. Ofgem has a factsheet with Consumer Futures (previously Consumer Focus) and Energy UK on the issue of “back-billing” spelling out your options.”

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/64010/back-billing-leaflet-2012.pdf

The Ofgem fact sheet about back billing, it contains similar information to the guardian article only with more specific details and examples of different situations.

http://www.npower.com/home/help-and-support/meeting-your-needs/financial-help/

This is specifically for those effected by npower, but other companies should offer similar arrangements!

Part payment toward an outstanding balance and re-payment plan for the remaining balance. This payment method allows you to make a contribution to the outstanding balance but means that you don’t have to pay a lump sum all in one go and then continue to pay the rest of the balance over a number of months

A payment plan covering the full outstanding balance

This payment method allows you to spread the payments out over a number of months, so you don’t need to pay a lump sum towards the outstanding balance it will be paid in monthly instalments.

http://www.npowerenergyfund.com/

Again, this is specifically npower, however other companies may offer a similar service. The npower energy fund, offers grants to help customers pay if they agreed to T+C’s of scheme, may have to meet certain criteria. You would have had to have paid regularly for 3months to be eligible.

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/consumer_e/consumer_energy_supply_e/consumer_energy_bills_e/consumer_problems_with_energy_bills_e/you_havent_had_an_energy_bill_for_a_while.htm

This is what the Citizens Advice Bureau says if you have been hit with a whopping great bill:

“If you have made efforts to contact your supplier and they failed to provide a bill, they cannot charge you for energy you used more than a year ago. You cannot be charged for more than six years’ worth of back-billed energy charges, even if the supplier is not at fault. This applies to domestic and business customers.”

They also have more information about what you can do, this website is worth checking out if you are struggling!

http://www.stepchange.org/Howwecanhelpyou/DRODebtrelieforder.aspx

StepChange offer advice on how Debt Relief Orders could help you, this is really if you are in dire need and really need some help. Although be aware you will have to meet certain criteria before you can get one.

 

We hope this information has helped, also feel free to get in touch with us!

 

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Seacroft Coffee Mornings!

14 Apr

 

 

 

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Leeds Fuel Poverty Action and Hands Off Our Homes held its third and final coffee morning in Seacroft this Saturday, and it was very successful. Plenty of people attended and we advised many of those who came on what they could do to lower their energy bills or how to appeal against the bedroom tax; as well as have a friendly chat over some lovely cakes and hot drinks!

Leeds Fuel Poverty Action and Hands Off Our Homes have also been able offer advice whilst promoting the coffee morning in Seacroft to those who needed help, but could not attend the actual coffee morning. A number of people mentioned having trouble with fuel bills and a few reported their worries of how the bedroom tax is affecting them and/or a relative or friend. We helped ease those worries by giving them our support and information about what they could do and which services they could contact, like Green Doctors, who can help them save money by installing simple things like draft excluders to help keep in heat and reduce fuel bills.

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Overall we think our work in Seacroft has been a success; we’ve managed to help a good number of people on a wide variety of issues relating to fuel poverty and the bedroom tax as well as pass on information about services that are available to use. However it isn’t all sunshine and roses, even though we visited 500 households there are still hundreds more who we didn’t manage to reach! There are also plenty of people who unfortunately can’t access the support we’ve been signposting, and the criteria for schemes varies by a lot. Also, if you’re just outside the bracket, or live in the wrong kind of housing, there is very little that can be done. It is a good thing that we have managed to get more people accessing services we’ve been signposting, like Green Doctors, but this also shows us even more how we need long term sustainable change to the energy system to truly help end fuel poverty.

We are considering the possibility of holding more coffee mornings in Seacroft and will continue to work with Hands Off Our Homes. It’s been good working with them and sharing resources and ideas, since more people have unfortunately been pushed into fuel poverty by the bedroom tax. So by helping people to appeal, this helps them free up money to cover energy bills.

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Although nothing is definite as of yet about the possibility of more coffee mornings, we are going to continue our work in Seacroft by following up individual cases that have been brought to our attention. Such cases include helping one lady tackle her issue with Npower over not receiving bills, then being hit with a huge fuel bill for one whole year! We’re also going to be handling another lady’s case of not having any central heating in her home by going to her MP’s surgery with her and offering our support.  We have met some wonderful people in Seacroft over the past two months, and look forward to continue to organise with them in the future to end fuel poverty.

Update: Leeds Fuel Poverty Action!

1 Apr

Leeds Fuel Poverty Action has been busy throughout winter, and we’re still busy now in spring! Here is an update on how our activities have progressed and where we are now.

If you’d like to find out how to join Leeds Fuel Poverty Action please email us at leedsfuelpovertyaction@gmail.com – we’d love to hear from you!

Community Energy                                                                                     

As we mentioned in our last update, Leeds Fuel Poverty Action is interested in starting a community energy cooperative in Leeds. We have now met with a wider group of people who are all from different backgrounds, and who are interested in helping to create this cooperative in Leeds. This cooperative is intended to create a community owned renewable energy, drawing on the successful experience of similar community energy projects across the UK, as well as overseas. We wish to use this project to address the issue of fuel poverty, and also climate change.

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Info-graph about a feed in tariff which is a government backed scheme, use a solar panel/wind turbine as main source of electric and buy from national grid only when need to!

We discussed how the scheme might address the issue of fuel poverty as part of its aims. Incorporating this goal into a community energy project makes some aspects of a scheme potentially more complex, but it is not impossible. We also discussed the options of installing solar panels and wind turbines as a way of providing cheaper energy for occupiers of social housing as a way of making their bills cheaper.

Wind turbines can provide energy day and night and would provide enough power for homes, but need strong roofs and are limited in where they can be placed. Whereas solar panels work only during the day and can’t store energy, but can be placed almost anywhere in Leeds. So we’ve got lots more research to do on the different technologies and how they would work for Leeds.

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How wind turbines could work in Leeds

 

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Solar panels may be a good option!

We also looked at how we might be able to run this cooperative, and one idea that we considered would be to have two associated cooperatives, one which is comprised of investors in the scheme which manage the generation of energy. Then a second, comprised of those who’ll benefit from the scheme, e.g. community members experiencing fuel poverty, who would manage the community fund.

 

As well as this we also considered how projects for this might work in a city like Leeds, which lead us to think about and research different community energy projects in other urban environments. In particular, we are in the process of meeting up with the Carbon Coop in Manchester, a community of residents in Greater Manchester who have worked together with specialists to create more energy efficient homes, which is something we would like to work on as well as or as an alternative to generating our own energy.

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An eco-house which uses renewable energy and is low impact environmentally!

However, we are still in the early days of this project, so we’re just taking the first steps at moving forward with it. We are currently contacting people, other groups, and the local government to gain a better idea of how other scheme’s function and how we might make this one a reality.

 

If you’re interested in community energy and would like to get involved, now really is the time! We’re going to do some site visits and are learning loads through our research so please let us know if you’d like to be part of this exciting project.

 

Contact us at leedsfuelpovertyaction@gmail.com for more info or to get involved.

 

Seacroft Coffee Mornings 

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As we said in our previous update, one of our goals is to work with people who are affected by cold homes and to have a direct positive impact on their energy bills. To do this we decided to hold a series of coffee mornings in Seacroft alongside Hands off our Homes (the Leeds bedroom tax campaigners).To support the coffee mornings,  we’ve been going door- to -door to publicise them and we’ve been offering some advice too.

 

So far, both Leeds Fuel Poverty Action and Hands off our Homes have held two successful coffee mornings in Seacroft, and are currently publicising the next one to be held. We went around the area of Seacroft, going door- to- door, to do this and reached a number of residents affected by rising energy bills as well as the bedroom tax.

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One woman we met going door-to-door has been affected by the Npower bill fiasco which has left more than a million customers without a bill. While this might seem wonderful – no bills! – people are now being hit by massive bills they can’t afford. The woman we spoke to was off work for depression and has tried numerous times to get an answer from Npower. At one point the manager said that she should just switch companies and stop calling. We intend to follow this up with Npower as this clearly isn’t right and we will provide help and support for her to aid her in her fight against Npower.

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We also met another lady at our coffee morning that has had trouble heating her home. She had no central heating system, just one gas fire in her flat, and her windows weren’t the best as they let in draughts when closed as tightly as possible. She tried contacting Leeds Homes, who are in charge of the council owned building, but with no success and no reply from them she got her solicitor involved. They still haven’t replied to the solicitors letters so she feels at a bit of a loose end. Obviously something has to be done, so we are supporting her as much as possible and the first thing we intend to do is to go with her to her MP’s surgery and see if they can be involved in getting a response from Leeds Homes to start the process of helping her get her home properly heated.

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We have been quite successful in spreading the word in Seacroft about what you can do to combat the rising cost of energy as well as what you can do about appealing against the bedroom tax. But we have so much more to do! If you’re interested in getting involved, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

Next coffee morning:

12th April 2014

10.30 – 12.30

St. James Church, LS14 6JT

Free food, helpful advice & friendly chat. If you’d like to help out with either publicising the coffee mornings or running them, please get in touch at: leedsfuelpovertyaction@gmail.com

 

The Energy Bill Revolution

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In our previous update we mentioned our work in regards to the Energy Bill Revolution. The Energy Bill Revolution aims to get every household suffering fuel poverty one big retrofit- meaning proper insulation throughout the home as well as many other energy saving measures such as more efficient boilers.

 

In order to do this we need money. The Energy Bill Revolution proposes that the answer is for the Government to use the money it gets from carbon taxes to help make homes more energy efficient. What the Government does, is to tax big companies for the damage their carbon emissions cause to people and the environment. This tax has been created by the Government to help combat climate change and wean UK companies off fossil fuels.

 

Currently the money the Government receives isn’t being used to help people use less energy to heat their homes – which would cut carbon emissions even further AND cut people’s energy bills. If the government were to do this it could bring 9 out of 10 homes out of fuel poverty, as well as help reduce energy bills and create jobs since people will be needed to install new better boilers and insulation. All in all, it sounds like a good thing with many benefits!

 

As we mentioned before, Leeds Fuel Poverty Action, The Climate Coalition, and Groundwork Leeds were very keen to organise a big public event in Morley to get key Labour MP Ed Balls to sign up to the campaign. We are now in the process of planning a public meeting with Ed Balls to discuss the issues of cold homes, fuel poverty and wasted energy. We also plan to invite a representative of the Energy Bill Revolution and we are currently contacting Morley based groups and organisations that work with the fuel poor to partner with us to put on the event.

 

If you are interested in helping out in any way then please feel free to email:

guy@stopclimatechaos.org

 

If you’d like to find out how to join Leeds Fuel Poverty Action please email us at leedsfuelpovertyaction@gmail.com – we’d love to hear from you!

 

The future of Leeds Fuel Poverty Action

7 Aug

New directions for Leeds Fuel Poverty Action

Warm weather and summer holidays make it a difficult time to get people excited about taking action on fuel poverty, so we’ve taken the opportunity to use this time for reflection and planning.

Over the past two years we have much to be proud of – getting people together for actions here in Leeds and in London, organising a mini-conference, networking across the city, putting on workshops, signposting people to energy services and building a spectacular photography exhibition that we’ve already put to good use.

But we want more! If we’re really going to take on the big six energy companies and drive down people’s bills we need a plan.

So we spend two days with the wonderful Seeds for Change to do just that. If you’re in a campaign group that needs some help, I couldn’t recommend Seeds enough.

They took lots of time before the workshop making sure they planned what we wanted, and when we found we needed more time to talk things through, our wonderful workshop facilitator calmly went with it. Thanks Seeds!

We reconnected with what motivated us to start taking action on fuel poverty, and came up with a new set of aims/principles:

  • Have a direct impact on people affected by fuel poverty
  • Collectivise the problem
  • Act in solidarity with people affected
  • Campaign!
  • Undermine the monopoly of the big six
  • Increase community awareness of fuel poverty – it’s causes and solutions
  • Engage people who aren’t already environmentalists

Yeah! While I think this reflects some of what we’ve been doing over the past few years, it’s great to have it written down and agreed upon so that we can use it for every big decision we make.

With this in mind, there are three strands of projects we want to work on.  BUT we want to do our research, so we’re taking the next month to do a load of reading and talking to people so that we can work out if any of this is possible!

If you think you have some knowledge / info that would be useful in this mission, please get in touch – we’d be very grateful!

1. Start a Green Bulk Buying scheme in Leeds – details to be worked out & many questions to be answered, including ‘how many people is bulk?’, ‘should we team up with people who have already done this to do the tricky negotiations?’, ‘what has happened with other schemes – which ones worked & why?’ and so many more!

Consumers struggle to understand energy bills

2. Run DIY Solar Panel workshops – we have been very inspired by Demand Energy Equality down in Bristol who have been running these workshops with low income households for some time now. More questions for this ones are around costs, where to hold the workshops and how can we make sure that it is helping people’s bills?

energy equality

(Picture courtesy of: Demand Energy Equality)

3. National action – the sad truth is that fuel poverty cannot be solved just here in Leeds. These are national companies that are pushing up our prices and we need a coordinated national response. We’ve already been talking to our friends in Leeds at Fuel Poverty Action and we’re going to run a workshop with them at Reclaim the Power to see what fuel poverty groups are out there around the country and who would be up for some coordinated action!

protest

What are the causes of Fuel Poverty?

5 Aug

Why should the government redefining the definition of Fuel Poverty actually make a difference?

The causes of Fuel Poverty are still generally the same:

  • Having housing that is not Energy efficient
  • The cost of energy
  • Income of the Household

And as illustrated by the Venn below these problems are caused by the usual symptoms:

 

3 causes of fp

(Venn references: Gov.uk, Parliament.uk, Tidal, Fuel Poverty Action)

 

What impact on a persons life would be had if one of these segments could be addressed?

 

Therefore when new statistics are launched in August 2013 how will householders who suffer the effects of a cold winter, actually be better off.  Instead of recalculating the statistics by changing the meaning how about addressing the problems of poor housing, the profiteering of the big six and ensuring that households have a better income to cover the cost of energy?

 

Other articles about Fuel Poverty redefinition:

Agenda EFA – Redefining Fuel Poverty – how much difference will it make?

The Telegraph – Goverment takes 1m out of Fuel Poverty – by changing the rules

A Minimum Income Standard for the UK and Fuel Poverty

1 Aug

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published their “A Minimum Income Standard for the UK in 2013” in June – what does this mean for people in Fuel Poverty?

The Minimum Income Standard (MIS) shows the cost of items and activities that the public think are needed to have a decent standard of living and shows the incomes needed for different households.

Therefore the MIS is not just about the basics  such as food and heating, the report shows much more of what is expected in society within the UK  – for example being able to go on holiday or buy Christmas presents.

The highlights of the report were:

  • Single people need to earn at least £16,850 a year before tax
  • Couples with two children need to earn £19,400 each
  • Cost of ‘minimum’ household budget of goods and services required for a good standard of living is rising faster than the official inflation rate
  • Over five years, working age benefits have dropped relative to minimum income standard
  • Out-of-work benefits are well below minimum income standard
  • Pensioners claiming pension credit receive incomes closer to minimum requirements
  • Personal tax allowance in April 2013 has eased cost-of-living squeeze for those earning enough to claim
  • But benefits outweighed by cuts to tax credits and rising costs of essentials
  • Families with children are feeling the squeeze particularly as earnings needed to make ends meet have risen by 5%, at a time when average earnings have been flat.
  • Living costs have jumped 25% in past five years

From a Fuel Poverty perspective – the rising cost of energy was a contributing factor contributing to the minimum cost of living along with childcare, social rents, public transport and food.

And if we take a look at the Gross earnings required to meet MIS, April 2013 table on page 19 which is based on the assumption that an earner is working 37.5 hours per week.

Single, working-age

Couple, 2 children, single earner

Couple, 2 children, dual earner

Lone parent, 1 child

£ Per Week

MIS (including rent, childcare (if applicable) and Council Tax

273.86

558.04

714.61

524.57

Gross earnings required

323.19

691.56

743.32

490.79

Annual earnings required

16,852

36,060

38,759

25,586

Hourly wage rate

8.62

18.44

9.91

13.09

With the increase of people working part-time positions, it is likely that many are not reaching the MIS level.

People in Fuel Poverty are working roles that would not support themselves as a single person, nevermind a family.  Due to other commitments such as looking after someone with mental health problems and the lack of jobs on the market, working a full time job is not always a realistic prospect.

Those on benefits or families with one person working full time on the National Minimum wage (Page 20) cannot meet the MIS.

heatoreatHere at Leeds Fuel Poverty Action we meet people who are in the unfortunate circumstances not to reach the MIS as case studies for our Cold Snap: Fuel Poverty Exhibition have illustrated – because of the pressures of rising costs, they have had the choice between heating or eating.

As the MIS, is based on public perception, it has items that may seem a luxury such as ‘alcohol’, ‘personal goods and services’ and ‘social and cultural participation’ (Table on page 15), therefore they may not be viewed as an essential, particularly when focusing on elevating poverty in the UK.

For people suffering in Fuel Poverty doing without these luxuries is an everyday reality (and not as assumed by some, that there situation is due to their own poor budgeting decisions).

loughbourough  The drop in standards over the last five years is disturbing, as pointed out by Loughbourough University, £13,000 would be enough for a single person in 2008 to meet the MIS.

This wage would now be £14,000 with average wage increases, which is actually £2850 below the requirements.

Katie Schmuecker, Policy and Research Manager at JRF said

“Our research shows that the spiralling cost of essentials is hurting low income families and damaging living standards. The public have told us their everyday costs have soared above wage levels, driving up the amount they need to make ends meet”  (Source: Turn2us)

This matches the worrying trend of the growing demand for food banks increase and people are relying on pay day loan companies for short-term fixes.

Even with the importance of the non-essentials items, their importance can be argued, can you imagine your life without being able to afford good quality food and being able to take part in social activites?  How would lacking these impact your physical and mental health?

In response to the report Age UK urged the elderly to claim benefits they were entitled to.  With the increase in costs this may not be enough to help all older people out of Fuel Poverty.

With child benefit being frozen, the decision to uprate tax credits by 1% and increasing cost of essentials means with a working couple with two children is £230 worse off a year, a single working parent has £233 less disposable income and a single person is worse off by £49 a year. (Source: York Press)

I highlighted last month the benefit of switching energy suppliers to save money but as can be seen this is not the full answer as many do not earn enough to have an acceptable standard of living – Energy costs have risen by over £300 a year, way beyond the rate of inflation.

It is more important than ever to fight rising energy costs, switching suppliers and using free or cheap energy saving products.

And that is only one-way of addressing the issue but further action is needed – support Fuel Poverty Action in your area, lobby your MP to support the Energy Bill Revolution and encourage your local councillor to do more to support the most vulnerable.

jrf

Other articles on the JRTF MIS Report

Financial Times – Rowntree survey shows living standards squeezed

Oxfam response to Hospeh Rowntree Foundation research shows living standards are being eroded for millions

Coalition Watch – Living Standards drop as poor get poorer

The Telegraph – Recovery far off for families as disposable income sees biggest drop in 25 years

Other articles from Leeds Fuel Poverty Action

Leeds City Council partnership to make homes more energy efficient: How does it help Fuel Poverty

Is the Green Deal a Good Deal for Fuel Poverty?

Redefinition of Fuel Poverty: Leeds Fuel Poverty Action brief view

9 Jul

So today Fuel Poverty has been redefined in an independent review.

The new definition to qualify as a household being fuel poor is:

  • Total income is below the poverty line (taking into account energy costs); and
  • Energy costs are higher than typical.

Part of the reasoning is justified as making it fairer, as the current fuel poverty definition can capture better off households while missing out those most in need.

Unfortunately, it feels like Fuel Poverty is being tackled by moving the goal posts instead of addressing some of the issues.

It also feels with the new definition much more difficult to make variable measurements to define whether a person is fuel poor.  It could make people ask the questions:

  • What is the poverty line and am I below it?
  • Are my energy costs higher than typical

The current (or should that be previous definition) of Fuel poverty being when a household spends 10% or more of its income seems a more simplified method of defining the issue.

We will have more on this new definition later as we get more reactions and try to understand how this will help the most needy.

“Davey determined to tackle the scourge of Fuel Poverty”

Fuel Poverty: A Framework for Future Action: July 2013

Leeds City Council partnership to make homes energy efficient: How does it help Fuel Poverty?

2 Jul

Last week Leeds City Council announced a new partnership to make homes in Leeds more energy efficient.

The council will be working with the companies Keepmoat, Willmott Dixon and SSE, offering free or heavily discounted energy upgrades to residents.

The scheme is funded from the energy company obligation (ECO) until the city-region wide Green Deal offer becomes available in 2014.

Until then under this current partnership free boiler upgrades, loft and cavity wall insulation is available to those on certain benefits.

leedscitycouncilAlthough we welcome the opportunity for housing in Leeds to become more energy efficient, we obtain a healthy cynicism particularly due to concerns whether the deal reaches the most vulnerable people suffering from Fuel Poverty in Leeds.

I happened to stumble on this announcement while conducting research for another article, therefore I hope that a larger scale of promotion is put in place as apart from the council and companies press releases, I have found little publicity of the program except in a Yorkshire news blog.

Secondly in order to help the programme reach its aims of helping those on certain benefits, support is needed to help the most vulnerable through the process so that they get the energy efficient homes they need.

There are other questions to consider:

  • Will improvements be given to reasonabley well-off landlords, who have poor tenants paying the energy bills?
  • The offer is available to people on ‘certain’ benefits – how will they qualify.
  • Is switching to a city wide Green Deal scheme a good idea?  Particularly as it has not had much uptake so far.  And if this scheme turns out to be quite succesful why would you change something that works.
  • How will they reach the most needy – those who can’t afford to pay energy bills and have the least energy efficient housing stock.

As it is only till 2014 before the city wide Green Deal replaces this project hopefully it will be promoted well enough so that a number of fuel poor can take advantage of this offer before the winter arrives.

Need to promote this programme is key, offering support to assess essential improvements in households, otherwise it may fail to make an impact on the target of reducing household carbon emissions and fuel poverty.

Written by James of Leeds Fuel Poverty Action

Leeds Fuel Poverty Action gets skilled up

1 Jul

Seeds for Change are kindly running two short days of training for Leeds Fuel Poverty Action to help us develop our campaign skills to ending Fuel Poverty in Leeds.

  • If you’ve never been involved in Leeds Fuel Poverty Action before, this is designed to help you get the skills and knowledge you need to leap in.
  • If you’ve come to a few events and want to get stuck in, this is your chance to really get to grips with the group and shape it.
  • And if you’re a really active member, this is your chance to make the plan for the next year and fill in any gaps in your skills and knowledge.

Day 1 of the training is on Monday 15th July from 12:00pm to 6:00pm

Day is on Tuesday 16th July from 10:00am to 4:00pm

Both take place at Leeds Tidal’s office in Ebor Court

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For more information visit the Facebook event pages

DAY 1              DAY 2

We hope to see you there!

 

Related Pages:

What can I do?

 

What are the benefits to switching energy companies?

24 Jun

I was recently stuck in a hospital waiting room watching delightful morning television, when I happened to catch Martin Lewis (the money saving expert) discussing the importance of householders changing energy suppliers to get better rates on their bills.

martin lewis

Just by doing this, he claimed he was getting a better price, for boiling his kettle than a 80 year old pensioner, due to the fact that he reviewed his deal and switched to a better one and stressed the importance of switching.

So how beneficial is switching and what are the ways people are switching?

I mentioned in a recent article the local initiative – Community Energy Direct, where people who signed up were estimated to save on average of £171.

money

Unfortunately this offer has ended now but it does illustrate the point of how powerful switching energy suppliers is.  And considering that is the average some probably saved a lot less, but on the upside some people probably saved a lot more!

And it is alarming on research to find that 47% of households have never switched energy company.  This means that there are a lot of potential savings to be made.

I also feel bringing energy switching into your lives is important to try and make energy companies slightly more accountable so that better prices can be offered – after all they are supposed to be in competition with each other.

Why do people not change?

With the amount of choice we have, why are people not making a change for a better deal?  From my own experience and research there could be a number of reasons:

The right to choose

When I was a student I was surprised when one of my more savvy housemates had changed energy suppliers to get a better deal.  As we were in a rental, I assumed like the colour of the walls this was something we couldn’t change.

I do wonder how many other people think the same because they don’t own the property.

 Apathy

With our busy lives, worrying about the cost of the energy bill may be a minor problem, however we do worry about the prices of other things – food, petrol, a pint.  Therefore what is the barrier that stops us finding a better energy deal?

 

Loyalty

There is also the element of loyalty, we stick with what is familiar perhaps we are satisfied with the service and do not want to risk the unknown.

Loyalty is an important element, which British Gas use as justification for higher prices saying other important factors such as customer service making the difference.

(Incidentally after a quick Google search on ‘British Gas Customer Service reviews’ I soon found what people thought of the service they paid extra for here and here and they only got a Customer Satisfaction of 50% from Which AND something from BBC Watchdog.

 Other factors

There are probably a number of reasons people don’t switch such as not being capable, being overloaded with too much choice, unable to access resources to make the change, assuming that the price is the going rate across the industry or not understand the terminology used in billings means that a number of people will not change.

choice

What are my options?

Basic switch

A basic switch is just changing one energy company to another.  The popular method is using a price comparison site to find a better deal.

Collective Action Switch

As mentioned, their is the Community Energy Switch Program, which is a bit like a basic switch with  a large number of people working together with an organisations such as Which to negotiate a better deal.

ced_main_site_logo

I assume the theory is that a better deal can be offered due to signing up a number of new customers.

Community Energy Co-op

Community Energy Co-ops are owned by the community, using renewable energy, helping bring people together and creating a source of renewable energy that is accessible and affordable.

The obvious disadvantage is the time, resources and commitment to get such a project off the ground, but once in place these offer savings, clean energy and a source of energy that does not rely on the Big six.

And according to Rough Guide, doing it this way can address a number of issues such as ‘climate change, rising energy prices, economic austerity and dwindling social cohesion’.

 

Why make a change?

I feel which ever method you decide to use other an element of  empowerment, even if it is just changing suppliers as it’s a simple way of saying your not going to accept what is being offered.

For energy savings it seems like a logical first step to take, before looking at household energy saving investments such as the Green Deal.

green deal

And as seen it seems energy companies don’t reward loyalty with better prices it makes sense to change on a regular basis as required.

I also encourage you to help others whether it is taking an interest in a relative, friend or neighbour and encourage them to switch so that they could potentially save a few quid.

Finally this article does not suggest that switching energy suppliers is a viable method to get people out of fuel poverty, but until more support is available it may be one way of trying to help individuals on the issue.

Written by James of Leeds Fuel Poverty Action, all thoughts and opinions are his own.

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Useful Links

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Rough Guide to Community Energy

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