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Citizens Advice launches week long campaign to help consumers cut energy bills

Citizens Advice launches week long campaign to help consumers cut hundreds of pounds from energy bills.

Big Energy Saving Week will run from 27-31 January and will help consumers take practical steps to make cuts to their bills by checking they are on the best deal, switching tariff or supplier and taking up help to insulate their homes and reduce their energy usage.

A survey for Big Energy Saving Week highlights that less than a third of those asked had spoken to their energy supplier to check they were getting the best deal for them, only 19 per cent had insulated their homes and as few as one in ten had considered switching supplier.

Citizens Advice Bureaux will be out and about at over 200 local events and consumers can also get help and advice online at www.bigenergysavingweek.org.uk, or from their local bureaux. The campaign is supported by Government, charities and the energy industry. It is funded by the largest energy companies.

Householders could benefit from savings of up to £320 from energy efficiency measures, an average of £100 by paying by direct debit and those who had never switched before could save up to £200 by shopping around.

The survey also found that people are trying to cut their energy costs by turning down the heating (52 per cent of people) or using less electricity (51 per cent of people). More than a sixth (16 per cent) are using fewer rooms in their home.

To help people take control of their bills Citizens Advice has released ten top tips to help you check, switch and insulate.

  1. 1.  Check your bills carefully and read your meter regularly. This will allow you to check how much energy you use and make sure you’re paying the right amount.
  2. 2.  Talk to your supplier if you think your bill is wrong or if you have problems paying. They’ll be able to give you advice about available support or talk you through repayment options.
  3. 3.   If money is tight, contact your local CAB. They can check to see if you are getting the benefits you are entitled to, or if you can get help paying your bills.
  4. 4.   Make sure that you’re on the cheapest tariff.  Check with your supplier and use an accredited switching website to see who’s offering the best deal. Tariffs are changing in 2014 so it is important that you are aware of your current deal and any changes your supplier is planning.
  5. 5.   Most energy suppliers offer fixed price tariffs, where the price of a unit of energy will stay the same for the length of the deal. These can work out cheaper in the long term and make it easier to budget – although you might need to pay by direct debit and your bills will still go up if you use more energy.
  6. 6.  If you use a pre-payment meter, remember that standing charges will be added daily - even when you aren’t using energy. Check how much they are and keep your meter topped up even during warm weather to avoid unexpected charges
  7. 7.   If you use heating oil as your main fuel, buy before winter and see if there are any local oil buying clubs you can join. If not, you might want to start your own.
  8. 8.   Make your home energy efficient – insulate lofts and walls, double glaze or use thick curtains to keep the heat in, and get your boiler serviced or replaced to ensure it is energy efficient. There are schemes to help with this.
  9. 9.   Save money and energy – don’t leave appliances on standby or leave laptops and mobile phones on charge unnecessarily. Fix leaking taps and always turn off the light when you leave a room.
  10. 10. Do a home energy check to find out about savings of up to £250 a year on household energy bills. Visit the Energy Saving Trust home energy check at hec.est.org.uk. Use this check to get a full report with details of your home’s energy use and the savings you could make.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of national charity Citizens Advice said:

“We know that people are finding it hard to make ends meet and struggling with the cost of basic necessities like energy and housing. This week we’re helping as many people as possible make sure they are not paying a penny more than they have to for a warm home or to keep the lights on.

“Through Big Energy Saving Week Citizens Advice is helping consumers to check, switch and insulate.  Citizens Advice Bureaux up and down the country will be out and about to help consumers find better deals, make the most of extra help available and vote with their feet if they can get a better deal.”

Angela Knight, Chief Executive of Energy UK, said:

“Energy companies know the cost of living can be a real concern so it is important customers get a good deal on their energy. Around a million people switched supplier in November and December, 230,000 of which moved to a smaller independent supplier. This goes to show that if customers aren’t happy with the deal they are getting, it’s easy to shop around and find one that suits better.

“Customers can also help themselves by making sure they are energy savvy and making the best use of the energy they use. There are many ways to cut your energy use from fitting new boilers, double glazing or improving your insulation and to smaller things like closing the curtains when it gets dark and not leaving the telly or other electrical appliances on standby. If in any doubt call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 – trained and independent advisors can offer advice and information.

“Big Energy Saving Week is an example of the energy industry and its many partners working together to help our customers make the most of their energy use,  take control of their bills and access all the help available to them if times get tough.”

Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Edward Davey said:

“The recent recession was the deepest in our peacetime history and many people have less money in their pockets as a result. That's why helping people who are struggling to pay their energy bills is a top priority for this Government.  We’ve been working tirelessly to reform the energy market, almost doubling the number of suppliers since 2010 and making it easier to switch supplier, which people are doing in droves. And there is targeted help with bills for the most vulnerable.    

“There are more opportunities than ever before for individual householders and communities groups alike to take control of their energy.  From community energy projects to the Green Deal and renewable heating schemes, I want to make sure people are aware of how they can make their homes warmer and reduce their energy use.

“Big Energy Saving Week provides an excellent way to showcase just what customers can do to reduce their bills.”

New figures show that three in five people are worried about the effect that rising household bills will have on their finances over the next year and over half (53 per cent) of UK adults – 27 million people – will have to cut their spending to cope. The Big Energy Saving Week campaign will help people avoid making other cutbacks. Of those who plan on cutting their spending:

  • 59 per cent said they will have to reduce the amount they spend on food;
  • More than a third will look for ways to reduce their energy bills;
  • 8 per cent of people said that they will consider moving to a cheaper home;
  • Two thirds of people say they will have less time to spend on time out with family and friends.

Twenty per cent of British households are struggling or falling behind with their bills. A further 32 per cent of people said they were keeping up with costs, but it was a struggle from time to time.

Of those concerned about paying their fuel bill:

  • Just over half have cut down the amount of energy they use;
  • More than a third have spent less on food;
  • 1 in 3 has sacrificed leisure activities or spending time with family and friends;
  • 15 per cent have gone into their overdraft to pay their energy bills;
  • 1 in 10 has borrowed money from family and friends.

In 2013, 200,000 people got online advice about energy bills from Citizens Advice. Between October 2012 and September 2013, Citizens Advice Bureaux dealt with 85,000 fuel debt problems.

Notes to editors

  • Big Energy Saving Week is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Energy Saving Trust, Age UK, ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) and Energy UK.
  • Further advice and information can be found at www.bigenergysavingweek.org.uk
  • Since 2005, the Home Heat Helpline has helped over 330,000 callers to keep their home warm by accessing grants for new boilers, insulations, discounts and rebate schemes. To find out more, call 0800 33 66 99 to speak to a friendly advisor or www.homeheathelpline.org.uk
  •  All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,530 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th - 20th December 2013.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  • The 27 million figure is based on ONS population estimates, which put to total adult population of the UK at 50,180,800. 
  •   Big Energy Saving Week is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Energy Saving Trust, Age UK, ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) and Energy UK. It is funded by British Gas, EDF, npower, Scottish Power and SSE.
  • £320 of energy saving measures, complied by the Energy Saving Trust. An energy efficiency retrofit – Including insulating cavity walls, topping up loft insulation, installing double glazing and upgrading a boiler - could save a household up to £320 on their annual energy bills, reducing emissions by 1.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. This is based on a gas heated three bedroom semi-detached house installing 4 insulation measures: cavity wall insulation, loft top up insulation (100mm - 270mm), installing an A-rated condensing gas boiler (81% to 88% efficiency) and double glazing (C-Rated glazing to A-Rated glazing). Valid for 2014.
  • By making some simple changes to everyday behaviours to become more energy efficient, a family could save as much as £130 on their annual energy bills, as well as avoiding 500 kg of carbon dioxide emissions a year.This is based on a gas heated three bedroom semi-detached house adopting a five energy saving behaviours consistently over a year. Turning down the room thermostat from 22 degrees to 21 degrees (£73 saving), using the washing machine at 30 degrees rather than high temperatures (£6), not overfilling the kettle (£7), taking one minute off every shower (£29), and line drying your clothes rather than using a tumble dryer in summer (£18). Using the average electricity price of 13.52p/kWh and gas price of 4.21p/kWh, valid for 2014.                         
  • This year the Citizens Advice service celebrates its 75th anniversary. We’ve planned a year of activity running from January to December 2014.  Contact the press office to find out more.
  • The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  • The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  •   To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at www.adviceguide.org.uk
  •  You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or 08454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  •  Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  •  Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.
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