Thousands of Cornish householders will feel an extra pinch in their pockets this autumn. A combination of rising energy prices and low levels of engagement in energy shopping mean that thousands in the county risk facing a cold winter of unaffordable energy bills.
The warning comes from the Truro-based charity Community Energy Plus. They are highlighting the importance of tariff switching at the time of year when most households turn their heating on.
The charity believes that local households will spend an eye-watering £36 million more on their energy bills than they need to over the next year, because they are still on standard variable tariffs instead of fixed price deals which are often cheaper.
Figures published by the energy regulator OFGEM show the extent of the great energy bill rip off, with 64% of households being on Standard Variable Tariffs, based on data for the largest 10 suppliers. These customers are potentially missing out on significant savings on their bills compared to cheaper tariffs from their existing or another supplier. SSE tops the league table of ‘big six’ suppliers with the highest proportion of customers failing to fix their tariffs (82%), followed by British Gas (69%) and E.ON (68%).
As part of their work to fight fuel poverty, the charity launched a collective tariff switching initiative almost three years ago. Community Energy Switch has so far helped over 2,600 people to switch, providing average savings of £212 a year. The initiative has kept over half a million pounds in the pockets of householders but the charity believes that the benefits could be several times greater if more people gave switching a try.
Registrations for Cornwall’s autumn collective energy switch are currently open. Householders have until 16th October to register their interest, with no obligation to switch, at www.communityenergyswitch.org.uk or by calling Freephone 0800 954 1956.
Lower income households, people under 34 and over 65, along with people with limited or no internet access are the most likely to miss out on savings according to OFGEM research. The same research shows that perceptions of the switching process are generally positive amongst recent switchers, but attitudes amongst those who had not switched are the least positive.
Dr Tim Jones, Chief Executive of Community Energy Plus, believes this research fits with the charity’s own feedback from switchers: “We often work with people who have been with the same supplier for years and don’t think that it’s worth switching, even though they’re struggling to keep warm because of rising energy costs. Once they see how much they can save through a few minutes online or on the phone they are surprised at how easy the process is, but are also annoyed that they’ve been exploited for so many years by their supplier. The oldest person we’ve helped to switch tariffs is 97 which goes to show that age is certainly not a barrier!”
Community Energy Switch links into the group buying power of other switching collectives taking place across the country at the same time but needs as many people as possible to register their interest in order to secure the winning exclusive cheap tariffs during the energy auction. The winning exclusive tariffs will be available after 17th October, but only to those who have registered their interest before this date. Householders will be able to see how much they could save and how it compares to other tariffs on the market to be sure that they’re getting a good deal before they agree to switch.
Dr Tim Jones reiterated the need for the local community to get behind their local switching initiative: “We want to put power back into the hands of Cornish householders, and put money back into their pockets. Energy suppliers have been making large profits at the expense of customers least able to afford high energy bills for too long. We’re urging everyone who has had a nasty shock from their energy bills recently to do something with their anger or worry, which is to switch and start saving with Cornwall’s collective energy switch.”
 £36,062,961. Calculation based on Community Energy Switch’s current average switch saving of £212.18, multiplied by 64% of homes in Cornwall which are assumed to be on a standard variable tariff (265,570 homes in Cornwall – 64% = 169,964)