Written by Katie Rosseinsky
After Jeremy Hunt announced that the energy price guarantee will only last until April, we asked seven women how they’re feeling about energy bills as we head into winter.
Over the past few months, the skyrocketing cost of energy has emerged as a serious worry for so many of us – and is likely to remain as one for a while.
In September, Liz Truss, the then prime minister, set out plans to cap the average household’s energy bills at £2,500 from the start of October, freezing the unit price of electricity at 34p per kilowatt hour (with a daily standing charge of 46p) and gas at 10p per kwh (plus a daily standing charge of 28p).
This would replace the Ofgem price cap, which had previously been set at £3,549, and was set to last until 2024. When Jeremy Hunt replaced Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor of the exchequer a few weeks later, though, he announced that the policy would now only last for six months, in a bid to “cost the taxpayer significantly less than planned”.
“This is a landmark policy supporting millions of people through a difficult winter and today I want to confirm that the support we are providing between now and April next year will not change,” he said at the time.
“But beyond that, [Truss] and I have agreed it would not be responsible to continue exposing public finances to unlimited volatility in international gas prices.”
Hunt has said that “a Treasury-led review” will look into how energy bills will be supported from April next year. Details beyond that are unclear, but most predictions point to a stark increase. Last month, consultants Cornwall Insight predicted that the average annual bill could leap up to £4,347 once the cap is lifted.
After the announcement, we asked women in a range of living situations – including renters in house shares, soon-to-be first-time buyers and those living with partners and children – how they are feeling about this ongoing uncertainty. Here’s what they had to say…
“I live in a houseshare with my partner and two other housemates in south-west London. When the initial two-year price cap was announced there was a lot of relief in our house. Although it was still more expensive than we had been paying, it gave us some security that at least this cost would be relatively fixed against a backdrop of other increasing costs (rent, food prices, etc).
“As our flat is fully electric and with an Economy 7 meter, we have shifted our habits to take advantage of cheaper night rates (eg putting the washing machine and dishwasher on overnight). But everyone has – and should be entitled to – their different views on how much to use the heating. No one wants to be that person who is telling everyone to turn the heating off, but with [prices] skyrocketing from April once the cap is removed, we’ll have to have a conversation as a flat about what is financially sustainable.
“I work in the energy industry and it is maddening that consumers are paying the price for the government’s failure to act sooner. The energy crisis isn’t a surprise; the industry knew it was coming and was warning about it long before politicians finally decided to act. They have now decided to act too little too late and the most vulnerable households will suffer the most.”
“I’m living with my boyfriend in a one-bed ground floor flat that we bought just before the mortgage rates started to hike. I have to say, I think the energy price guarantee stopping in spring makes sense to me. We earn enough to pay to heat our small flat (we are in a mid-terrace) and I think by spring we’d be starting to switch the heating off anyway.”
“We are homeowners and two WFH adults with two teenage sons and a daughter at university. Like many, and as a rational, educated person, I am still utterly confused by energy price rises and news about caps. Middle-income families now have longer to worry and longer to wait. Can decisions please be made and stuck with that allow the public to somehow get a handle on their own cost of living beyond the winter months?
“We have spent all summer being led to think our bills will literally be trebling if not more and it’s unsustainable. Caps are essential and so is planning. Will we spend all winter worrying about what might happen after April, with misinformation and inevitable U-turns? I feel mostly for the vulnerable and anxious. Communications are non-existent and worry is through the roof for so many working people. The public deserves better.”
“The rising energy costs are a worry, especially for the elderly, people with families and those on low incomes. I think what makes it more worrying is that the level of support being granted isn’t clear and people are unable to plan what they need for their bills.”
“I currently rent a flat by myself. If I’m honest, I’m a little nervous about April, and I think it will impact us more than we think because a) the energy rebate will end in April, so we’ll be paying the ‘full’ price from then on, and b) for the same month, the price guarantee will be cut… I’m concerned we’ll be hit with a huge increase.
“I’m already taking some measures now. I have a sinking fund for electricity so my Monzo rounds up my transactions and any money from that goes into a savings pot that’s put towards my sinking fund. I’ve also increased my direct debit slightly for electricity, with the government’s help it means I’m in credit at the moment, so I’m hoping this will help with the impact over the winter months, but April [brings] uncertainty and I’m not sure what will happen. I hope there’s support and it’s tailored to individuals, not a one-size-fits-all approach.”
“Like many others, I’m feeling anxious about the news that the government’s energy price cap has been scaled back to end in April 2023 rather than October 2024 as they’d originally promised. It feels like the latest in a long line of let-downs and confusing statements made by the government, which are further fuelling the anxieties we’re all already facing.
“I’m in the process of buying my first property, which will see me move from a one-bedroom flat to a three-bedroom detached house, so I’m expecting my energy bills to go up, but knowing that the price cap won’t be in place for long after I move is really worrying – I’ve no idea how much it’s then going to cost me to heat my house. Coupled with increased mortgage rates, it’s a really scary time.”
“I’m shocked by this announcement.This is a massive worry for most families and I know it will be a huge concern among my social media following. The issue is that everything else has gone up – it’s not just gas and electricity. More needs to be done to help families as people’s wages are not able to keep up with the price rises.
I am lucky enough not to have a mortgage, but my bills are going up just like everyone else’s. I am always mindful to make financial savings wherever I can and share my ideas on social media.Whatever our circumstances, we all have to pull together to get through these tough times.”
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