Update from Energy UK on the COVID-19 situation
With the current lockdown in place, the energy industry has been working hard to ensure the lights are kept on and customers receive a reliable service. We are also very conscious of the difficulties some customers might face due to the current situation, particularly those customers in vulnerable circumstances.
Energy UK, on behalf of our members, has been leading work with partners across the sector directly with Government at the highest levels to ensure support is there for customers and we are able to maintain a safe, reliable energy supply.
Audrey Gallacher, Energy UK's chief executive said:
“The whole industry is working hard to ensure that customers receive reliable services and the support they need during this difficult and unprecedented situation.
“We know many more customers than usual will be facing financial difficulties right now and suppliers are working tirelessly to identify those who need additional help, particularly those customers in vulnerable circumstances.
“At the same time, we must pay tribute to the many energy workers who are on the frontline delivering this essential service, and doing so in line with Government guidelines and following the highest levels of hygiene in order to keep customers and staff safe.”
Support for customers in vulnerable circumstance
Energy suppliers have committed to identifying and prioritising these customers, which could include those on the Priority Services Register and with existing health conditions - as well as those put into difficulties by the current situation.
Support offered on a case by case basis, depending on individual circumstances, could include reassessing, reducing or pausing debt repayment and bill payments for customers in financial distress. Suppliers will also not disconnect any meters (except in relation to safety, theft or vacant properties).
All suppliers are providing information, advice and guidance to their customers on what help is available and working hard to contact prepayment customers with advice on what to do in the event of self-isolation.
There is additional support for prepayment customers facing issues with topping up when self-isolating. This is based on individual circumstances but could include suppliers extend discretionary/ friendly credit, sending out a pre-loaded top up card or enabling customers to nominate a trusted third party to pick up discretionary credit sent to a shop on their behalf.
Customers looking for information should make sure they are getting it from a supplier’s website or authoritative source like Citizens Advice.
Financial support for customers in need
In addition to suppliers’ efforts to provide additional help and support for customers in vulnerable circumstances and those on prepayment meters, as outlined above, there are also going to be many more households and businesses than usual who will struggle to pay for essential services like energy bills. On behalf of the industry, we will be working with the Government on how we can ensure financial support for those households who are the most in need.
Energy workers out and about
When workers from across the energy industry are out in the streets, visiting properties or travelling to work, it’s because they are working to keep households and businesses supplied with heat, light and power. This is a critically important service and we’d appeal to everyone to be aware of that and please let them get on with their work.
Some of the energy industry workers who will still be travelling and not able to work from home are those that work in highly specialised jobs in our sector (e.g. critical maintenance and control room operators in power stations). We’re working on ensure these individuals are correctly identified as critical workers so they’re able to show their credentials to police forces. We’re also looking into how critical workers can be tested for COVID-19 as part of any second tranche of availability of these tests to ensure they are able to work and keep the lights on, following the absolute necessity for these to be available to COVID-19 patients and front line health workers across the NHS.
Keeping people on supply
Disconnections are extremely rare these days, and usually only occur in the event of criminal activity or for safety reasons. Suppliers are suspending any credit meter disconnections during this period except in cases of safety, theft and vacant properties.
If customers are worried about their ability to pay their bill or have financial concerns, they should contact their energy supplier.
Contacting your supplier
Suppliers are also encouraging customers to use online channels or apps to manage their account or contact them if possible - for example to top up smart prepayment meters. Customers facing urgent issues such as loss of supply need to contact their supplier immediately - so it is important that understaffed call centres are able to deal with these priority calls.
Suppliers are also limiting home visit and installations to essential work – such as that required to keep customers on supply or other urgent maintenance. They will follow all recommended health precautions if they do need to visit a property.