Money Wellness
Image of a gas hob being turned on. Ofgem announces energy prices to fall from April. What do you if you have energy debt. Can't afford gas and electricity
category iconbills
calendar icon23 Feb 2024

Energy to fall to its lowest price for two years from April

Ofgem has announced the energy price cap will fall by 12.3% from 1 April thanks to a mild winter and falling wholesale gas prices.

Average household paying by direct debit for dual fuel will be around £20 better off each month with bills set to fall by £238 a year to £1,690.  

This is the lowest energy prices have been since Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine two years ago in February 2022.

However, they remain far higher than they were pre-pandemic, leading to energy debt reaching a record £3.1 billion.

We’re also seeing a significant rise in households contacting us with energy debt – around 75% of those we help every month are in debt to their energy provider.

To help struggling households, Ofgem has said it will get rid of the premium households on pre-payment meters pay for standing charges, making the system fairer and cheaper for those on a low-income.

And struggling households will also benefit from a £28 levy charged to customers, which will be used by energy companies to provide more support to those in need.

The charge will be added to the bills of customers who pay by direct debit and not those on prepayment meters. It will be partly offset at the end of an £11 a year charge that was added to cover debts related to the pandemic.

The new price cap will come into effect on 1 April and will run until June. It will then be adjusted again in July, with energy consultants Cornwall Insights predicting that it will fall again to £1,462 before climbing again from October.

What should I do if I can’t afford to pay my energy bill?

75% of people who contacted us last month were in arrears – behind on payments - to their energy providers so you’re not alone. Here’s what you should do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills or find yourself in debt.

Contact your energy supplier

Contact your energy supplier as soon as you realise you’re struggling to pay your bill.

You are protected by Ofgem and your supplier has a responsibility to work with you to find a solution. You should try to find a solution that works for both of you.

Don’t bury your head - energy is a priority debt meaning there could be serious consequences if you miss payments or don’t speak to them, e.g. they could threaten to disconnect you.

See what grant support is available

Many energy providers have schemes or grants available for low-income households struggling to pay their bills. Some are open to anyone – you don’t need to be a customer.

What you’ll be offered will depend on your energy provider and your personal circumstances but could include, money towards your bills, wiping off some or all your debt or reduced tariffs.

We’ve pulled together a list of energy grants here.

Or contact your supplier to find out what they offer.

The British Gas Energy Trust could also provide help even if you’re not a British Gas customer.

Access emergency credit

Households on prepayment meters might be able to get emergency credit if they run out of normal credit and can’t afford to top up.

When your credit gets low and is about to run out, you can activate the emergency credit – usually £10 – to make sure you can heat and power your home.

It’s designed as a safety net, and you may be charged a fee for using it. Therefore, if you come close to running out and are struggling, it might be better to contact your supplier to see what other help is available.

Join the priority register

The priority register is a free support service that makes sure extra help is available to people in vulnerable situations.

If you have a disability or long-term medical condition, are pregnant or have young children, have reached pension age, or have extra communication needs, you’ll be eligible to join. There are many other conditions that could also make you eligible. To find out more visit the Ofgem website.

Speak to your local authority

Your local council might be able to give you money or vouchers to help with energy bills from the Household Support Scheme – but be quick as it closes on 31 March 2024.

What you’ll get will depend on how your local council has decided to use their portion of HSS. It is best to contact them directly for further information.

Make sure you’re claiming everything you’re entitled to

Around £19 billion in benefits goes unclaimed every year. You can find out if you’re claiming all you’re entitled to by using our benefits checker.

Check you’re eligible for extra help or discounts

There are a few payments available to help with heating costs:

Cold weather payment

Cold weather payment is extra financial support for people claiming certain benefits to help cover additional costs of energy bills during very cold weather. Find out more and if you’re eligible here.

Winter fuel payment

The winter fuel payment is aimed at helping pensioners pay for higher fuel bills during the colder months.

Find out more and if you’re eligible here.

Warm home discount payment

The warm home discount scheme supports those on a low-income who are vulnerable to cold-related illness or who live in fuel poverty. You could get £150 off your electivity bill by claiming the warm homes discount.

Find out more and if you’re eligible here.

Get free debt help

If you’re struggling to pay bills or are in debt and can’t see a way out, seek free and independent support.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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