Big Energy Saving Week runs from the 18th to 24th January 2021 and is a national campaign run to help people cut their fuel bills and get advice on their energy usage, as well as helping them to get any financial support they are entitled to. It is run as a partnership between the Energy Saving Trust, Citizens Advice and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, but is also supported by many NGOs, charities and companies. In fact, Citizen’s Advice have been running a campaign through the winter as well, called Energy Saving Winter, which culminates at the end of January and other partners run the campaign for a month instead of a week.
January is usually a difficult month financially for a lot of people, coming after the expense of Christmas and the cold weather pushing up heating bills, but after the year just gone, when many people may be struggling with reduced incomes due to lockdowns and COVID-19, it is more important than ever to raise awareness and support those in need. Helping people with energy advice not only saves money but also has a positive impact on our carbon footprint and the wider world. In 2018-19, the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Extra Help Unit delivered £1.3 million in savings to people, with an average saving of £232 per case, so reviewing energy usage can reap tangible rewards.
Energy saving advice
There is a lot of advice available if you look for it, both online, through the energy providers and other organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or Citizens Advice Scotland. Some of this advice is general advice on saving energy, cutting your bills etc., and we have included some top tips below to help you save some money and reduce your energy consumption. The Energy Saving Trust has lots of information about energy efficiency in the home, as does the Government-funded Simple Energy Advice Website. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can call 0800 444 2020 and talk to someone in person.
In Scotland, the Home Energy Scotland network of advice centres is useful or people can call 0808 808 2282; and for Wales, information is available on 0808 808 2244 or via the Nest/Nyth website too. And for Northern Ireland, the Bryson Energy Advice Line on 0800 142 2865 can help.
Whilst general advice is important, there is also a great diversity across the UK in everything to do with energy – some people live in modern houses designed with energy efficiency in mind; others live in rambling older houses which can be hard to heat and have little insulation; and others still live in rural communities where oil-fired heating is all that is on offer. The upshot of this is that energy advice often needs to be individualised to the household. Think about the people your own situation – is your house left empty all day, or do you need to maintain an ambient temperature 24/7 to support elderly or vulnerable people who are at home all day?
Some organisations for example, specialise in focusing on different or specific needs, such as those who:
- struggle to pay their bills
- switch off the heat to save money
- have electric only heating
- have a pre-payment meter
- are in debt to their fuel suppliers
- live in a house which is difficult to heat
- are unable to access online-only deals for whatever reason
With the impact of COVID-19 starting to pinch people’s pay packets, employment opportunities and household incomes, more and more people need help with energy bills this year.
Benefits and financial help
Depending on where you live and the policies of the main or devolved government in that area, financial help may be available for energy-related issues. These include things like:
- Winter fuel payments – Between £100 and £300 for people born before 5/10/54
- Warm Home Discount Scheme – up to £140 one-off payment for eligible people
- Cold weather payments – £25 payment made to people on certain benefits if the weather is zero Celsius or less on 7 consecutive days between 1/11/20 and 31/3/21
There are other benefits for people with disabilities, chronic illnesses or visual or hearing impairment and others may also be able to get help from their energy company themselves so it’s important to ask. It’s important also to check that people are claiming all the benefits that they are entitled to and charities like Turn2us can help with going through individual circumstances to check they are.
Top tips for saving energy in your home or work setting
- Switch supplier to a cheaper one or ask your existing supplier if you are on the cheapest or most suitable tariff
- Organise a dual fuel discount by getting your gas and electricity from one supplier
- Check if you are eligible for any grants to make your home more energy efficient (e.g. by fitting a new boiler/heating or insulation)
- Change to direct debit which often offers a small discount over other payment methods
- Switch to energy-saving, or LED light bulbs
- Switch off items that you usually leave on standby like TVs or computers
- Use a smart meter to see when and where you are using most energy
- Switch off lights in rooms you are not using
- Fit a water efficient shower head and spend 1 minute less in the shower each time
- Reduce your washing by one load a week
- Switch off the radiators in rooms you don’t use
- Only fill the kettle with the amount of water you need to boil
- Turn the heating down by 1 or 2 degrees
- Close doors to reduce draughts or use curtains and draught-excluders
- Compare oil prices on the oilsave.org website if you use oil to heat your home
Remember that being energy efficient is not just about saving money, but if we all reduced our energy consumption even just a little, this might add up to a big impact on our planet too. Teaching your little ones is also part and parcel of the process to help them grow into responsible adults, so starting in the early years is crucial.