As the mercury dips, VIVA has teamed up with Warm This Winter, the coalition of charities and campaign groups fighting for a fair energy system, who have ten actions people can take to keep homes heated and where to get help for spiraling energy bills.
Here’s a helpful glossary of key terms you’ve probably heard being bandied around:
Ofgem is the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets and sets the Price Cap every three months, which tells energy suppliers what rate they can charge. That’s why you will see your bills go up or down if you’re on a variable tariff. You can also report any dispute you are having with suppliers to them.
The Price Cap limits the amount that a supplier can charge for their default tariff. It includes: The standing charge (a fixed daily amount you have to pay for energy, no matter how much energy you use). The price for each unit of electricity and gas (measured in pence per kilowatt hours or p/kWh).
A tariff is the rate you will be charged and you can fix your tariff over a number of months so the amount you pay stays the same for as long as you are on that fixed rate.
A variable tariff will change if the Price Cap changes which means you will pay less if the Price Cap is reduced or more if the Price Cap is increased.
The 10 steps you can take
Should I fix my tariff?
Does it make sense to switch to a fixed energy deal now? It depends on what you are offered!
It’s true to say that most experts agree that the outlook for energy bills is volatile. What is a fact is that bills will go up again in January by five percent (an average yearly increase of £94), so the question is by how much and what fixes should you look for?
The Warm This Winter advice is to check the daily Standing Charges price offered. Ideally, it should be below 53p a day for electricity and 30p a day for gas, which is what Ofgem, the body that sets the Price Cap, has set for the variable tariff.
Also check the Unit Rate. It’s a good deal if it is below 27 pence for electricity (p/kWh) and 7.5 pence for Gas (p/kWh). It is important to work out the cost for your own bill – relying on published averages doesn’t take into account your circumstances. Your last bill, or online account, should provide you with energy use figures you could use.
Finally, check whether there are any exit fees if you are leaving an existing supplier as an exit fee could wipe out any savings made by swapping suppliers. Also if your new supplier has exit fees that could hit your pocket if prices suddenly go down and you want to switch again.
Variable tariffs means the cost of your energy will change as soon as the Price Cap changes. It means bills could go down in price as happened this October, or could go up as they will from January 1st.
If you want to opt for a variable tariff, the cheapest one Warm This Winter could find gives a £92 annual saving on the October Price Cap. But it’s complicated as you need separate tariffs for electricity and gas. These are: for electricity Fuse Energy’s ‘Fuse Saver’ tariff and for gas Home Energy’s ‘Home SVT’ tariff (October 2023 v1),
The Warm This Winter Tariff Watch will report again on the best deals in January when the new Price Cap comes into effect.
Hidden Exit Fees
Suppliers use ‘exit fees’ to stop people from switching suppliers, so watch out for those hidden costs if you’re looking to move your electric or gas bills.
It’s good to note that almost all tariffs for Good Energy, Octopus and Cooperative Energy come with no exit fees.
A lot of the energy we pay for at the moment is being lost through leaky homes which can make a huge difference to your bills.
Warm This Winter estimates it can add an extra £580 to heat your home if you have an Energy Performance Rating (EPC) of D or below.
If you’re on benefits or live in a home with a low energy performance rating as above, you might be eligible for free insulation. Money Saving Expert has all you need to know to see if you can get help.
Warm This Winter doesn’t believe people should have to use warm rooms, which are community and public spaces, such as a library or community centre, where people can spend time so they don’t have to put the heating on at home, but sadly they recognise many people do need them.
Their recent research showed that over a third (35%) of households which included a mum-to-be, are forced to spend more time in public heated places to keep warm.
If you’re in energy debt, you’re not alone as eight million households will go into this winter having borrowed money to pay for energy bills or are already in debt to their energy provider, some owing more than £1,000.
More than a million households have had to disconnect their energy this year because they cannot afford to keep the lights and heating on. Worse, over a million children lived in a house that went without heating, hot water and electricity, at some point this January to March.
It is nothing to be ashamed of and there is help available both from the government and the energy companies too. You can find help with the Government’s ‘It all adds up’ campaign here and organisations such as Centre for Sustainable Energy
You can also join the Warm This Winter ‘help to repay’ campaign, which calls on the Government to create a repayment scheme that will give customers breathing space and a fairer way to get rid of energy debt.
Do you pay by direct debit? You could be owed thousands
Recently Martin Lewis advised everyone who pays by a direct debit each month to send a meter reading to their supplier. That’s because many firms will use estimates, which can lead to over-charging and by providing regular, accurate readings, you could see the direct debit reduced.
He also highlighted that many people find themselves with extra credit after the summer season and if that’s the case, speak to the regulator Ofgem, asking for some of the money back, as suppliers must refund accumulated credit.
If you are getting nowhere with getting money back, he urged Brits to remind their supplier of their license conditions. These state that direct debits must be fair and refunds offered for credit. You can use the Money Saving Expert’s calculator to see if your direct debit is fair.
Winter Fuel Payment
Older people receive an annual winter fuel payment and you are eligible if you were born before 25 September 1957. You could get between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills. This includes a ‘Pensioner Cost of Living Payment’ of between £150 and £300.
You’ll get this extra amount in winter 2023 to 2024. This is in addition to any other Cost of Living Payments you get with your benefit or tax credits. Visit https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment to find out more.
Why you must stay warm this winter
It’s important to try and keep your home at 18 degrees centigrade if you can as this is the level health experts say is needed to stay warm.
Millions of people with health conditions spent last winter living in cold and damp homes, including more than a quarter of those with disabilities, with many cutting their energy use to the bare minimum. This led to 5,000 excess deaths, an increase of over 1,800 from 2021, and put even greater pressure on the NHS.
Even with government help for energy bills, seven million households, or over 16 million people, spent last winter in fuel poverty, many of whom were pensioners or young children.
While energy prices remain high, Warm This Winter says the government needs to target extra help to people who otherwise won’t be able to afford to heat their home which is why they have launched their emergency tariff campaign to help the most vulnerable and you can sign their petition here.
Make your voice count – what action can you take ?
Warm This Winter have a number of ways you can make your voice heard and create a fairer and better energy system for all. Ask your MP to sign the Warm This Winter Pledge to help build support in parliament for their campaign demands.
And you can write a letter to your local newspaper. Visit to find out all you need to know to write your letter and where to send it.