Households ‘ration’ energy use over bill fears
That’s according to new research from price comparison site comparethemarket.com, which found that this was even more common among young people. More than half (54%) of those aged 18-34 said they had rationed their energy use, compared to just one in five (19%) of those aged 65 or over.
More than half of households (58%) said they were worried about the impact the cold weather and the time spent at home due to lockdown would have on their energy bills. Again this jumped among younger people, hitting 68% of those aged between 25 and 34, an age group particularly likely to have been placed on furlough.
Comparethemarket.com pointed to its own research which found that the combination of spending more time at home and the cold snap from Storm Darcy meant average households were facing a bill of £113 more than usual for the first three months of the year.
Almost a third (29%) say their finances cannot stretch to meet these additional costs, while more than a third (34%) said that if energy bills rose sharply they would consider cutting their spending on food.
Peter Earl, head of energy at comparethemarket.com, said household finances were in a “fragile position” as a result of the pandemic, with the combination of a cold winter and increased energy use due to lockdowns being “particularly strenuous” for households that were already struggling.
He added: “With spring now upon us and warmer weather approaching, usage will drop off, easing the strain on finances.”
Hiking the energy cap
It’s worth highlighting that millions of households face the prospect of even higher energy bills this year, after Ofgem, the energy regulator, increased the energy price cap.
Part of this increase was down to the fact that many suppliers have had to cope with customers taking months off paying their bills due to the pandemic, but it nonetheless means that the price cap has jumped by £96 to £1,138 a year.
The price cap applies to the standard tariffs offered by suppliers. These are the tariffs you move onto after your initial fixed or variable tariff comes to an end, and are always much more costly.
As a result, a simple way to dodge the impact of the price cap and save money on your bill is simply to shop around for a new deal each time your tariff ends, rather than move onto the standard tariff.
According to Ofgem, the average price charged on the cheapest tariffs in March stood at £933. In other words, by going for a cheap new deal you’re likely to save the best part of £200.