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How EDF is helping keep homes warm this New Year

Credit: Adobe

Philippe Commaret, Managing Director for Customers

Philippe Commaret, Managing Director for Customers | EDF

4 min read Partner content

As we all feel the force of the latest cold snap, some of our customers will have to make the awful choice between putting the heating on or paying for other essentials.

At EDF we are constantly looking at ways to help and support our most vulnerable customers in reducing their bills - launching initiatives to help those in financial difficulty, as well as providing funding to help insulate homes.

We recently announced that over the coming weeks we will be contacting our most vulnerable customers experiencing hardship with the opportunity to have their debt cleared as part of our ‘fresh start’ initiative, with eligible customers receiving an average of £1,250.

This latest initiative forms part of a £40m support fund that we committed to customers this winter, that also included effectively rolling back standing charges for our most vulnerable customers, taking £30 off the average bill.

To help keep homes warmer, we also increased our investment to improve energy efficiency for households through support from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and the Great British Insulation Schemes (GBIS) by £103m in 2023. Under the scheme rules suppliers are able to invest in ECO at any point until March 2026, but rather than wait, we brought forward this investment to make sure households in need can benefit from warmer homes and lower bills as soon as possible. This brought our total committed spend on ECO and GBIS in 2023 up to £185m, benefitting 14,000 households, giving the average customer an annual bill saving of between £700 and £800 per year.

We hope these initiatives will make a real difference but we are unable to offer all of this support unilaterally and indefinitely. With bills expected to remain far above their pre-energy crisis levels, we’re worried that households will continue to struggle.

Last year, Ofgem said that energy debt had reached its ‘highest ever level’. Our own data shows that between December 2022 and September 2023, debt with no plan in place increased by 52%.

More customers are falling deeper into debt with no real long-term solution in place to help them. Additionally, current schemes like the Warm Home Discount haven’t increased since before the energy crisis, despite energy bills being almost double.

We must make sure the most vulnerable in society are being protected. We’re taking action to help those in need, but vulnerable customers need a long-term, sustainable approach to tackle affordability.

If we stand still, the situation will drive up costs for all households, with other customers forced to pick-up the cost with the current surcharge up to £120 on a typical bill*.

This comes as our new research shows that 65% of households do not want to see bills increase to cover costs generated by other customers. Energy featured as the top household cost that people are worrying about most (66%).

Action is needed and we are calling on Ofgem and the Government to:

  • Push ahead with plans to consult on a targeted social tariff as soon as possible
  • Create a central database of vulnerable households using government data, building on plans for a cross utility Priority Services Register. This database would help suppliers target support such as a social tariff and automatically flag up customers where a relevant vulnerability would exclude them, for example, from involuntary prepay actions. 

When asked whether a potential £17 increase to bills (Ofgem's previous estimate before its recent announcement) to cover debts was acceptable, the majority (56%) of those surveyed said it was not acceptable in any circumstance. Among those unhappy about possible bill increases of even a small amount (65%), the top solution cited to stop increasing debt costs going onto bills was introduction of a social tariff (28%). 

The measures and schemes we are implementing can help bring some peace of mind to vulnerable customers, but we need to see real action so those who need help most get long-term support.

*EDF is supporting Government’s ‘It all adds up campaign’ to promote the simple steps customers can take to make savings on their energy bills this winter.

Research conducted with 2,098 members of the UK public, ages 18+ by Portland Communications. Polling was conducted online between Friday 10th and Monday 13th November 2023. Data were weighted to most recent national estimates for age, gender and region.

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