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Back-billing

Gas and electricity suppliers know that energy bills going back months or even years, known as back-bills, can be a concern for customers.

Back-billing commitments

Both the customer and the supplier have responsibilities with regards to billing. But where a microbusiness customer has taken all reasonable steps to avoid the need for back-billing, suppliers have committed to limit any back-bill to three years for electricity bills, and to four to five years for a gas bill. This is a minimum standard and in many cases suppliers have voluntarily gone beyond this to offer greater protection to their micro business customers.

From 1 November 2018, new standard licence conditions for suppliers of microbusinesses comes into effect that limits any back-bill to 12 months for both electricity and gas bills. The voluntary standards will, therefore, be closed as of 1 November 2018.

Further information

Energy Companies Obligation

The Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) is a domestic energy efficiency programme to provide added support for packages of energy efficiency measures.

These measures can help with cutting down energy loss from a building and lead to less energy use. Support includes insulation and heating packages to low income and vulnerable households and insulation measures to low income communities.

Energy efficiency plays a key role in helping to lower energy bills. Following installation of most measures the difference will be immediate. Assuming that a consumer has been heating their home to an adequate level, they can continue doing so, but by using their heating less, resulting in significant bill reductions. Each house will require different measures for the optimum result, which is why it is important for the householder to work closely with their provider or installer to select best options.

ECO creates a legal obligation on energy suppliers to improve the energy efficiency of households through the establishment of two distinct targets:
  • The Carbon Emissions Reduction Obligation (CERO) which focuses on the promotion of hard-to-treat homes. Solid wall insulation and hard-to-treat cavity wall insulation are two examples. Other insulation measures and connections to district heating systems are also eligible. Some CERO must also be delivered in rural areas.
  • The Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation (HHCRO) which focuses on the promotion of measures which improve the ability of low income and vulnerable household to heat their homes. This includes actions that result in heating savings, such as the replacement or repair of a boiler.
There are lots of opportunities for customers to access energy efficiency improvements via the ECO. To find out more, contact your energy supplier.
 
Changes to ECO
 
The most recent ECO scheme (ECO2t) commenced on 1 April 2017 and is an eighteen-month obligation that will run until 30 September 2018. The Government are due to consult on a new scheme to replace ECO2t in the near future (early 2018). Energy UK is working closely with members and Government to learn any lessons from the current scheme and to ensure that the future scheme will be fit for purpose.

Read more information on Energy Companies Obligation on Ofgem’s website.

How the savings are being passed on

The largest energy companies have all made commitments to reduce customer bills following the Government’s announcement of a restructure of the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO). For more information see our table detailing the actions of each energy supplier and savings passed on (PDF 500KB).

Policy

Energy UK plays a leading role in policy development across a range of electricity generation and energy retail issues. Sustainability and social responsibility are key elements of our work. We play an important part in developing schemes that deliver benefits to gas and electricity customers, whether through companies' voluntary initiatives or by advising on effective regulation.

Energy UK is a technology-neutral trade association, and our members represent all generation technologies used commercially in the UK - this includes a range of renewable energy technologies, as well as coal, oil, gas and nuclear power.

Key areas of current activity including electricity market reform, the national Smart Meter installation programme, the Green Deal scheme and other initiatives designed to improve the energy efficiency of people's homes and help reduce fuel poverty. We also work on environmental issues, planning, networks and on health and safety in the workplace across the generation industry.

Health and Safety

The Energy UK Health and Safety Conference is on 15 November, bringing industry leaders in Health and Safety together with those on the ground to discuss key areas which impact the sector. For more information click here.

Maintaining Health and Safety standards across all activities is critical to the industry. From our generators through to our suppliers, our members are committed to delivering best practice. Whether through monitoring trends, developing best practice or simply guidance on regulation or legislation implementation, we work with members to ensure the energy industry's workforce is safe and healthy at work.

Health and Safety at Energy UK is discussed by Generation and Retail groups, to ensure that the two distinct aspects are considered fully and appropriately. The Safety Leaders Group oversee this work, keeping an eye out for potential cross-over risks and opportunities to further raise standards. 

The Retail Health and Safety Forum is focussed on the operational challenges presented through metering services and engagement with customers, safeguarding customers’ touchpoint with the industry.

The Generation Health and Safety Forum focuses primarily on the operational challenges associated with electricity generation on various power station sites. Having originally held a distinct focus on thermal plant, the Generation Health and Safety Forum are expanding to not only ensure our legacy assets are decommissioned safely, but also that new plant and technology coming onto the system is safe and secure by design.

Energy UK also have a Safety Leaders Group who govern the work undertaken by both the Retail and Generation Health and Safety Forums. Members in this group actively challenge the industry to move from strength to strength to improve Health and Safety in both a top down and bottom up manner.

As part of the work carried out in this space, Energy UK contributes to the ENA's Powering Improvement strategy within which members have the opportunity to address a host of Health and Safety risks. With themes which change yearly (occupational health, asset management, contractor engagement to name a few), ENA and Energy UK members along with industry Trade Unions have created a 2 phase plan ensuring the UK energy industry continues to be a world leader in Health and Safety performance. Find out more about the Powering Improvement strategy. Energy UK also contributes to the Health and Safety Executive's Helping Great Britain Work Well strategy which aims to protect our workforce through management of risk, supporting innovation and increasing productivity.  

We also work closely with other industry stakeholders and government bodies including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Public Health England (PHE) and Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to ensure our members are as well-equipped as possible to allow for the above to take place.

Our members produce a variety of publications and reports which mirror the work Energy UK carries out for industry on Health and Safety. We create positions on industry standards, legislation and regulation so government and stakeholders are firm in the knowledge that our industry welcomes the challenge to continue to improve its high standards of Health and Safety.

Disconnection

Energy UK plays a leading role in the development of industry best practice in the areas of debt and disconnections. Energy suppliers recognise that vulnerable customers need to be protected from disconnection.

Safety Net for Vulnerable Customers

As the Energy Retail Association, in 2004, our members signed up to the Safety Net for Vulnerable Customers. It includes a commitment to never knowingly disconnect vulnerable customers. Where a customer has been disconnected and then is identified as vulnerable, the supplier will reconnect their customer as a priority.

Since the Safety Net was founded, the nature of debt and disconnection in the UK energy retail market has changed beyond recognition. In 2003 there were around 16,000 disconnections of domestic customers for debt in the UK. In 2015 - the most recent year for which published data exists - there were just over 250.

Participating Energy suppliers want to know they are performing as well as they can against the aims of the Energy UK Safety Net. This is why the signatories undergo an audit each year to measure how they deliver against 13 key objectives including having specialist teams to support vulnerable customers, monitoring repayment options so they take into account a customer’s ability to pay and never knowingly disconnecting a vulnerable customer.

The commitment to publish the results reflects the increasing priority Energy UK’s members place upon protecting their most vulnerable customers.

Why is disconnection used?

Disconnection is only ever used as a last resort. It follows a lengthy attempt by the supplier to recover a debt. It is rarely used and only in cases where customers won't pay their bills. Before disconnection is considered, suppliers try to find out the customer's circumstances and set up an affordable payment plan. The Safety Net gives information on how suppliers protect vulnerable customers from disconnection.

Although suppliers do not want to disconnect their customers and go to great lengths to avoid it, in the interests of their other customers, it is a sanction that must remain. Energy UK believes that if this deterrent didn't exist, debts would rise across the industry and affect all customers, including those on low incomes. It is not fair that customers who do pay - including those in, or at risk of fuel poverty - pay for customers that can afford to pay but choose not to.

How prepayment meters help to avoid disconnection

Many customers choose to pay for their energy via a prepayment meter (PPM), often because it helps with budgeting. PPMs are also used to help avoid disconnections. Suppliers will not install a PPM unless it is safe and practical to do so.

Energy UK's work to help lower customer debt

Energy UK works with the Regulator, Consumer Groups and others to make sure the debt and disconnections pathway considers customers' needs. Suppliers are aware that customers who are struggling to pay may have other debts. This is one reason why Energy UK and suppliers work so closely with the money advice sector, including organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Money Advice Trust and the Money Advice Liaison Group.

Energy theft and disconnection

Crimestoppers in partnership with industry has launched a free service for the public to report energy-related crime. The service allows for landlords, tenants, businesses and the public to come forward and report any suspicions, incidents or evidence of crime, either through the website via an anonymous, non-traceable form at stayenergysafe.co.uk or on the dedicated number, 0800 023 2777.

Energy theft is a crime that impacts all energy users, and is liable for prosecution. Around 1,500 people in the UK are charged by the police for energy theft each year.

 

 

Micro business

The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act defines a micro business as one which:

  • uses less than 293,000 kWh of gas or 100,000 kWh of electricity a year, or
  • has fewer than ten employees (or their full-time equivalent) and an annual turnover total not exceeding 2 million euros.

Energy UK and the Industrial & Commercial Shippers and Suppliers Association, who between them represent most of the companies supplying energy to small businesses, have produced two guides to help micro business customers. The first sets out how micro businesses can avoid back-billing, and the second explains how the contract renewal process works. You can view these by clicking on the links on the left.

Contacts

  • Business Debtline - advice for small businesses
    0800 197 6026 or www.bdl.org.uk
  • The Ombudsman Services: Energy
    0330 440 1624 or 01925 530263
    Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    www.ombudsman-services.org/energy.html

 

 

 

Warm Home Discount

Under the Warm Home Discount scheme, Britain’s main energy suppliers will be providing £1.1 billion of support to their most low income and vulnerable customers. Around two million households are expected to benefit in each year of the scheme, which runs from April 2011 to March 2015.

Most customers who receive assistance under the Warm Home Discount will get a rebate on their bill, but suppliers will provide other forms of support too.

How the Warm Home Discount scheme works

Under the Warm Home Discount, vulnerable people and those on low incomes will be helped in a number of different ways.

Over half of the funding across the scheme, (around £580 million) will go directly to the oldest, poorest pensioners through a rebate on their electricity bill. The rebate is worth £130 and will rise in following years. Whether or not someone is eligible is determined by Government, and depends on whether customers qualify for certain elements of pension credit.

Each supplier also offers the discounts to a broader group of fuel poor and vulnerable customers who apply for assistance.

Suppliers also continue to fund other activities to help people through benefit entitlement checks, debt relief and energy efficiency measures

Help to reduce fuel poverty

Providing financial assistance to those in need may help tackle fuel poverty, but more long-term solutions involve improving the energy efficiency of people’s homes. This is why the Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) are being brought in. Find out more about the Green Deal and ECO schemes.

 

Energy efficiency

Energy suppliers work closely with Government and stakeholders to offer consumers opportunities to be more energy efficient.

Energy efficiency is essential to help consumers reduce their energy consumption and improve the comfort of their homes. It is also central to achieving the UK’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.

Energy suppliers have an obligation to deliver energy efficient measures to householders via the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO). ECO was introduced in Great Britain at the beginning of 2013 and replaces two previous energy efficiency programmes, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP).

There are a number of measures that can help improve energy efficiency at home, from double glazing and insulation to efficient light bulbs.

Customers can take small steps to save energy, such as purchasing energy-efficient appliances, ensuring appliances are not left on stand-by, using energy efficiency light bulbs, and insulating walls. Different homes might need different forms of insulation – be it loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and solid wall insulation, depending on how the property is built, but insulation can notably reduce all heating bills.

Smart Meters

Smart metering will change our energy industry for the better, that's why Energy UK is leading a number of projects to support the upgrade to smart meters. Our work so far has included:

  • Joining with Citizens Advice and trade publication Utility Week to persuade Government to authorise the install of smart meters across Britain within 10 years;
  • Agreeing principles and requirements for working together and decided on the way that smart gas and electricity metering should work;
  • Creating proposals and options for the way the smart meter programme should be run;
  • Setting up the Supplier Requirements for Smart Metering project, working on a number of wider industry schemes related to smart metering, and responding to Government consultations;
  • Working with the Government’s central smart metering implementation programme to develop best outcomes for smart metering and customers;
  • Supporting our members in their response to the re-planned Smart DCC release strategy;
  • Developing the scheme on behalf of our members, delivering  codes of practice and other agreed commitments including:
    • Smart Meter Device Assurance
    • Alternative Home Area Networks for blocks of flats and difficult installs
    • The development of 868MHz specification to bridge the national coverage gap
    • Developing Accessible IHDs with the RNIB
  • Contributing to the BEIS Smart Metering Programme with development work;
  • Responding to Ofgem and BEIS consultations;
  • Developing the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP)

Data Guide for Smart Meters

The Data Guide for Smart Meters outlines the key information customers need to know about their rights and choices when they get a smart meter installed. Smart meters can collect  energy consumption information, which customers can use to learn more about their energy use.

This guide has been developed and agreed between Energy UK, its members and Citizens Advice, following  customer research. The Guide was published back in June 2013. It outlines what data will be collected by energy suppliers, and the choices that consumers have about the amount of information their energy supplier can collect and how the information can be used.

Read the Data Guide for Smart Meters (PDF 70KB).

Policy note: The customer research gave specific insight into what to call this document. The “Data Guide” was preferred to the phrase “Data Charter”, which was the term used by Government in its smart metering data access and privacy policy documents. Any reference to the Data Charter should now be taken as referring to the “Data Guide for Smart Meters”.

How the smart metering system will work

Former DECC (now dissolved and under BEIS) published a leaflet that details how the smart metering system will work when a new shared smart metering national infrastructure is in place.

You can view the leaflet at DECC's website.

Energy UK good practice guidance for issues found during meter exchange visits

Making sure customers are safe is of paramount importance to energy suppliers. Suppliers often identify potentially unsafe situations when visiting customer’s homes. This document outlines the principles of what suppliers will do for their domestic customers where safety issues are identified during a meter installation visit.

Read Energy UK's Good practice guidance for issues found during meter exchange visits - July 2014.

Fitting and operating smart meters

Energy UK aren't involved in the fitting or operation of smart meters.  If you have any questions about smart meter fitting or operation, please get in touch with your supplier.

Guidance for Electricity and Gas Installation Customer Facing Issues

Following the publication of its Good Practice Guidance for issues found during meter exchange visits (published in July 2014), Energy UK and the Association of Meter Operators worked alongside industry experts in developing a comprehensive ‘Guidance for Electricity and Gas Meter Installation Customer Facing Issues’ document. This new document is aimed at providing clear guidance to meter installers on how to act, and the actions they should take when they identify issues with consumer’s gas or electrical equipment or appliances that require corrective action to be taken, either immediately, or at some point in the near future. 

Fuel poverty

Fuel poverty is a serious and complicated issue, which energy suppliers are helping to tackle in a number of ways.  For the obligation starting in April 2017, up to 2022, £640m will be spent annually on energy efficiency measures, and a large part of this money will be made available to fuel poor customers, to help them reduce their bills, heat their homes and keep warm.

What is fuel poverty?

In June 2013, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)* published 'A framework for future action’ which set out the Government’s intention to adopt a new definition of fuel poverty for England.

This new definition states that a household is said to be in fuel poverty if:

  • They have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level), and
  • Were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.

This also uses a fuel poverty gap - i.e. the difference between a household’s 'modelled' (average) bill and what their bill would need to be for them to no longer be fuel poor.

In England, the adeguate standard of warmth is defined as 21°C in the living room and 18°C in other occupied rooms.

Since 2001, the Government has had a legal duty to set out policies that will, as far as possible, cut out fuel poverty. A variety of schemes and measures have been introduced, but the number of households assessed to be in fuel poverty has not fallen in line with the targets.

*DECC is closed. Energy issues are covered by a new department called Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Tackling fuel poverty

Whilst tackling fuel poverty is a legal obligation of Government, energy suppliers recognise their responsibilities, especially the elderly, and those on key benefits.

With this in mind, suppliers have worked closely with social services, citizens’ advice bureaux and charitable groups, such as Age UK and Macmillan, to consider the best way to help vulnerable customers. Thousands of energy customers have been taken out of fuel poverty through the efforts of energy suppliers working with social welfare organisations.

Challenges when dealing with fuel poverty

If fuel poverty is to be eased, hard choices need to be made and difficult problems solved. For example:

  • Fuel poverty should be addressed at its root causes through greater societal action on energy efficiency and poverty reduction. Financial assistance clearly helps but it is not an adequate solution.

Energy UK believes that the fairest way of addressing fuel poverty, is through energy efficiency measures paid for from the tax and benefits system.

Energy UK is committed to working with Government to address these challenges, including the key question of how to identify the fuel poor.

 

 

 

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