Expert’s view

Tackling energy bills: what the pundits say

Price shock, easing the blow and self-help

Gas

Price shock 

Continental Europe may be braced for higher gas prices as the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grows, said Rachel Millard in The Daily Telegraph. But the UK Government has been quick to reassure the domestic market that “less than 3% of our gas was sourced from Russia in 2020”.

Nonetheless, a price shock is imminent, said Forbes Advisor. The energy cap that has protected UK households from soaring wholesale prices (currently set at £1,277 for an average household) could hit £2,000 by April, “pushing many household budgets to breaking point”. 

Easing the blow 

“Ministers have been locked in talks with energy companies” over how to reduce the impact, said Nathalie Thomas in the FT. Options include cutting the 5% VAT on energy bills and removing “green” levies, but “the simplest route” might be to target only “the most vulnerable households” – meaning most of us are on our own. Thanks to its ageing housing stock, Britain looks particularly poorly placed, said Bloomberg. Its homes “lose heat faster than anywhere else in western Europe”, yet a recent survey showed that “less than a fifth of Britons were considering improvements to home efficiency”; more than a quarter reckon the upfront cost is too high. 

Self-help 

The knee-jerk reaction is “to switch deals”, said Lovemoney.com. “The reality is there aren’t many – if any–cheap tariffs to switch to.” But you might reduce your bill by good housekeeping. Paying by direct debit and sticking with one supplier on a “dual fuel” deal often works out cheaper. And find out if you’re eligible for a government grant for loft and cavity wall insulation, which could deliver savings of £240 and £275 per year respectively. There are also “loads of simple things you can do”: from washing clothes in cool water, to adding thermostatic valves to radiators. Alternatively, follow the example of retired engineer Pete Bailey of Bridport and take more dramatic action, said Laurence Sleator in The Times. “Windy Pete” has become “the first person in England to supply renewable energy to his local community” via a private wind turbine – ensuring savings for 17 households who buy the power via a community scheme. It may be the start of a new “farmer’s market” in energy.

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