The ongoing coronavirus situation is causing everyone to re-evaluate what is really essential. A jog around the block or a trip to the shops used to be simple tasks that we did without thinking. But now we are faced with questioning whether it really is necessary.
We often refer to energy as an essential service – sometimes without giving it too much thought. But it is at times like this that we really appreciate just how essential – from lighting and heating our homes to refrigerating and cooking our food, and for enabling that much needed cup of tea.
And of course, millions of us are currently reliant on technology being powered which enables us to work from home, order online groceries or connect to family and friends on video calls.
It’s always there so naturally we very rarely think about what goes on in the background to make sure we have this ever-reliable service - literally at the flick of a switch.
The energy sector employs 144,000 people across the country, supporting a further 620,000 indirectly through the supply chain – that’s equivalent to 1 in 46 jobs in the UK.
Many of these people are still working throughout these challenging times – from construction workers on critical infrastructure sites to those working in power station control rooms, from engineers carrying out important safety repairs in the streets and in our homes to call centre staff supporting customers.
Right across the sector, these people are working hard to maintain energy supply for us all while observing government guidelines and adopting the highest levels of hygiene and safety standards. So it is important that we both let them get on with their essential work and also appreciate their important role.
Energy companies also understand that right now many people will be experiencing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus situation. That’s why recently Energy UK, on behalf of the sector, worked with government to agree a set of measures to protect energy supplies for those in the most need.
Disconnections are already extremely rare these days – only ever really occurring in the case of criminal activity or due to safety concerns. And the sector’s Safety Net already ensures that no one in vulnerable circumstances will be knowingly disconnected by their supplier.
But at the outset of this pandemic, the sector came together to agree new principles with the government to go further to help for those in most need, including customers with pre-payment meters, and more broadly, that any customer in financial distress will be supported by their energy supplier.
There have been some heart-warming examples of companies going the extra mile to support customers. For example, Centrica’s partnership with the Trussell Trust to volunteer to deliver food parcels to vulnerable customers and the extension of their partnership with Carers UK to keep their vital helpline and email service running to provide carers with vital support at this time.
In times like these, businesses will rightly be judged by their response to this crisis – and putting customers and communities first should be the cornerstone of this.
If you, or a member of your family, need additional support please ensure you contact your energy company. You may find online options such as webchat, email or an app faster to deal with your enquiry if these options are available to you.
For more information on the energy sector’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including support for business and consumer advice on everything from energy efficiency to staying safe from carbon monoxide while at home, see Energy UK’s information hub.