Struggling to pay? Speak to your energy provider. Please don’t ignore the problem. There is always help with arrears, payment plans, direct debit amounts and debt advice. If you don’t pay, bailiffs could be sent to your home and your credit rating could be severely affected.
You may also be able to repay your debt directly from your benefits through the government's Fuel Direct scheme.
A number of suppliers and charities also offer grants to help with bills.
Check you're getting extra government help
There is a range of government support to help people with energy bills, including help for households on means-tested benefits, pensioners and people on certain disability benefits.
The government launched an Energy Price Guarantee in October 2022, which limited a typical dual-fuel household's annual energy bill to £2,500.
This continued until the end of June, when a typical annual energy bill fell to £2,074 under regulator Ofgem's energy price cap.
Under the new price cap, bills will fall to around £1,923 between October and December.
Contact your energy supplier as soon as you can if you are worried about paying your energy bills or think you won’t be able to afford them.
Your supplier must take into account your circumstances and situation and offer help.
Your supplier must work with you to agree on a payment plan you can afford based on what is called your ‘ability to pay’.
This includes reviewing a plan you have agreed before.
You can ask for:
- A review of your payments and debt repayments
- Payment breaks (if available) or reductions
- More time to pay
- Access to hardship funds if available
Many energy suppliers offer specific grants from trust funds which may be able to support.
Your monthly payment is based on your estimated energy use for the year, and your supplier may reduce your bill if its estimate is higher than the amount you actually use.
You can also request a flexible monthly direct debit where you pay for your actual monthly consumption. This requires a smart meter or regular readings.
But two-thirds of gas usage is during the winter months, you need to factor in the impact of reducing your payments during the warmer months.
Pay what you can
If the direct debit is fair, but you can't meet it, ask your supplier for an "able to pay plan" based on what you can afford.
By paying something every month - even if it's less than the amount due - your arrears will grow more slowly, meaning your supplier may be less worried about your debt.
The British Gas Energy Trust will consider applications for grants from anyone, regardless of who your energy supplier is.
They require you to seek professional money advice first and fund a number of local advice centres across England, Scotland and Wales which specialise in this.
The Priority Service Register (PSR) is a great way for you or someone in your household to get extra support when it comes to your utlity supply.
The PSR is a free service provided by all utility companies. If you're signed up, you could be eligible for everything from bills in braille to advance notice of planned power cuts.
You could also receive priority support in an emergency.
This means that, if you're medically dependent on your utility supply or you have restricted mobility, your utility company will call yo in an emergency to explain what's happened and check if you need help. You could also get additional support during an outage, including bottled water delivered to your door.Read more
Available if you’re getting certain benefits or Support for Mortgage Interest and if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.Read more
If you’re running out of gas and electricity, your supplier provides an emergency credit facility which you can access automatically via your meter. If this is still insufficient, then you can call your supplier and explain the situation as they are required to offer some amount of additional support credit to keep you on supply or return you to supply where appropriate.
This can be if you are struggling to pay (Emergency credit), because your top-up points are closed (Friendly-hours credit) or because you are in a vulnerable situation (Additional Support Credit).
In most cases, any temporary credit will have to be paid back when you next top up, though you can ask your supplier to spread out the cost in a payment plan, based on what you can afford to pay.