Energy adviser bootcamp questions and answers
Delivering energy advice and energy saving tips
|What are the suppliers’ obligations to customers who don’t speak English as a first language?||The supply licence conditions, which suppliers must follow, do not hold any obligation for suppliers to provide customer service in any other language. However, most suppliers voluntarily offer support for customers who do not speak English as their first language.|
|How will clients learn if they are eligible for the Warm Home Discount (WHD) this year?||In England and Wales, the Warm Home Discount is paid directly towards electricity bills. This means that clients who are eligible should be informed by communications from their electricity suppliers. Not all suppliers are part of the scheme – for a list of participating suppliers visit Warm Home Discount Scheme: Energy suppliers – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)|
If a client is eligible, they should receive a letter from the government between November and December. The letter will say if the client needs to call the government helpline to confirm eligibility. The helpline will be open from mid-November until the end of February each scheme year.
If the client thinks they should be eligible for a discount under the Core Groups but have not received a letter by the end of December, then they should contact the Warm Home Discount team in January. The number to call is 0800 030 9322.
|How will those who live in park homes receive Warm Home Discount?||Those in park homes should apply for their scheme here.|
|What other help can households expect this winter?||Information on cost-of-living payments and support can be found here.|
Local authorities may also have support services and discretionary funding that residents can apply to.
|Should advisors recommend using alternatives to central heating, such as oil heaters and electric fan heaters?||The most effective way to heat a home and retain that heat is through central heating systems. Other plug-in or single room systems are often less efficient and more expensive to run.|
|How do I know how efficient an appliance is?||You can find information on specific energy labels for appliances here.|
For a more general overview and comparison on appliances, please see this National Energy Action advice resource.
|What are the most energy efficient ways to dry clothes?||The most efficient way to dry clothes and with the least risk of damp/condensation is to dry them outdoors.|
However, this may not always be possible in the wetter months. A standard clothes horse with a slightly ajar window is another very cheap way to dry clothes.
If these options also aren’t possible, a heated clothes airer is generally cheaper than using a tumble dryer. Be sure to avoid putting wet clothes on radiators and try tips like putting a clean washing load through an additional spin cycle before hanging up.
Where a tumble dryer is absolutely essential, try adding a dry towel into the wet clothes as this can reduce the time the overall load will need to dry.
|What’s the most energy efficient way to cook?||Appliances like microwaves, slow cookers and air fryers can cook a wide variety of meals and are cheaper than a standard oven. Especially online, there are many cheap and easy recipes using these.|
It can also be an energy-saving habit to cook favourite meals in a batch and then reheat them, saving time as well as energy!
|Is there a guide to understand energy bills?||National Energy Action has guides on how to read your electricity and gas bills.|
|When should I be advising clients to switch/fix tariffs?||This answer isn’t straightforward, it depends on a lot of influencing factors. These include proximity to the price cap increase, how much risk the billpayer is comfortable with, and the unit price in existing/prospective tariffs. MoneySavingExpert (MSE) has created a regularly updated guide on this, which can help empower clients to make their own judgement call.|
|Please can you clarify the new prepayment meter regulations?||Yes, the new rules around involuntarily installing a prepayment meter come into play from 8 November. Energy suppliers must first obtain authorisation to resume prepayment meter installations under warrant, or remote switching to smart pay-as-you-go. Ofgem will announce which suppliers have received this authorisation ahead of the supplier resuming these practices, and they will keep a live webpage showing all authorised suppliers, too. There are a lot of new requirements, which can be found here. Broadly, the new rules require suppliers to conduct extensive vulnerability assessments of the characteristics of the household of which they are looking to install a prepayment meter in. If there is vulnerability in a household, the energy supplier must deem it safe and reasonably practicable to install a meter before proceeding.|
A summary of the new rules and obligations is in the process of being created. Once this has received Ofgem’s approval, National Energy Action will distribute it for anyone who is interested.
|Can a supplier give a time period, such as six months, for when arrears should be paid off?||As per the Ofgem Affordability Principles, if you are unable to afford the repayments in the time your supplier has suggested you can ask for more time to pay.|
Understanding the market
|Why do standing charges keep increasing?||The standing charge is a fixed amount that householders pay on their energy bill every day, regardless of the usage. It covers the cost of using and maintaining the energy networks, wires and pipes that provide gas and electric to our homes. It also puts money towards government initiatives to help vulnerable households (Warm Home Discount is one of those schemes) and reduce carbon emissions. Among other reasons, the standing charge is increasing as a result of the expansion of these schemes, the rising cost of materials and wages, as well as a need to upgrade our energy infrastructure.|
Ofgem has also made several decisions over the past year or two to move costs from the unit rate onto the standing charge. This has increased the level of the standing charge, while not making a meaningful reduction in terms of the unit rate.
|Does National Energy Action have any campaigns across standing charges?||National Energy Action has been challenging Ofgem through multiple consultations and meetings on the issues caused by standing charges. Fundamentally, the level of standing charges has doubled over the past two years or so. There are also enormously unfair differences in the level of standing charges across regions, which we are challenging at every available opportunity.|
Ofgem is beginning a package of work in mid-November 2023 looking at standing charges. This work will go into early 2024, by which point there should be some potential reforms to standing charges being proposed.
|Where can I find average figures for gas and electricity rates across regions?||MSE has a table that makes this very clear!|
|Why are there differences across regions?||There are a few reasons, Ofgem has a report looking at this topic. It is mainly due to varying costs to get energy to different regions, plus certain areas consuming more than they generate.|
|Are there still discrepancies across different payment types?||Yes, the price cap shows the differences between direct debit, prepayment and standard credit. Although currently, the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) is reducing the amount paid by prepayment customers to be in line with direct debit customers. Ofgem is currently looking at introducing some measures to make this change permanent, as the EPG scheme ends in March 2024. Standard credit remains the most expensive payment method by a significant margin.|
|What are the obligations energy suppliers have to consumers, particularly those who are struggling?||Energy suppliers who are aware of customers struggling must offer options to assist. If a householder was in debt, for example, the supplier should offer Fuel Direct, a prepayment meter or a payment plan to recover that debt. The Fuel Rights handbook may be useful to you, or National Energy Action’s Fuel Debt Advice in the Community qualification.|
For households with a prepayment meter, energy suppliers must also offer additional support credit. This is for when a household cannot afford to top up its prepayment meter. In some cases, this credit may be repayable.
Measures and schemes
|What happens if clients live in listed buildings, or have similar construction restrictions?||Under ECO there are certain exemptions for measures in listed buildings or where there are similar restrictions. This is covered in the ECO delivery guidance paragraphs 4.28 – 4.38.|
|How do I access a domestic Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?||If a property has an existing EPC, this can be found on this database.|
If the property in question does not have an EPC or has one which is expired, an assessment will be required to get a new certificate.
|Is there any funding to pay for EPCs through schemes?||We don’t believe so. There may be some circumstances where scheme providers assist householders who are potentially eligible, but this is likely to be limited.|
|What role do local authorities play in implementing ECO schemes?||Local authorities can refer householders to energy suppliers under ECO Flex routes. A Statement of Intent needs to be published outlining the routes covered.|
|What are the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) rules around gas-connected homes?||What are the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) rules around gas-connected homes?|
|What if a home is eligible for measures but needs remedial works such as loft clearance or repairs?||ECO funding can cover remedial work to rectify faults or to treat issues in the property before the installation of energy efficiency measures can take place. This is limited to £1500 per property for owner-occupied properties with a starting EPC band of E, F or G. However, moving items in the loft space is out of scope.|
|Can funding schemes be used in tandem for eligible households?||There is some scope for different funding schemes to be used for different measures in the same property. However, this depends on factors such as individual rules of the schemes, the measures that are to be installed, and how those measures are sequenced. There is a guide to scheme interaction in paragraphs 4.79 – 4.91 of the ECO delivery guidance.|
|What do VAT exemptions for works cover and not cover?||Zero-rated VAT applies to the supply and installation of listed energy saving materials until March 2027, when it is due to revert to 5%. Supply only (such as through a DIY store) is not covered and heating controls would not be covered when installed as part of a boiler installation. Some ‘ancillary supplies’ are covered, but the only examples given in the guidance are cutting a loft hatch to fit loft insulation or fitting larger radiators and pipework for a heat pump installation. The full guidance can be found here.|
|What if I am working with clients who do not want ASHPs/GSHPs or would not know how to use them? What funding exists to replace existing gas boilers?||There is some scope for gas boiler replacements in ECO, and they are also one of the main measures carried out under Nest in Wales.|
|Do any schemes include window upgrades?||Householders may be able to get double glazing through the ECO scheme.|
Rewatch the bootcamp recording
Delivering advice top tips and fuel debt spotlight
Why do energy rates and costs differ by region? https://www.uswitch.com/gas-electricity/guides/why-are-energy-rates-different-by-region/
MoneySavingExpert – what are regional rates: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/what-are-the-price-cap-unit-rates-/
Fuel poverty definitions across the UK – https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/housing/articles/howfuelpovertyismeasuredintheuk/march2023
Information on government-led cost of living support for households: https://helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk/
Warm Home Discount:
Turn down a boiler flow temperature to save money: https://www.moneysavingboilerchallenge.com/
Dealing with damp and condensation: Dealing with damp and condensation – National Energy Action leaflet – National Energy Action (NEA)
Check labels on appliances: https://www.energylabel.org.uk/
Understanding how much various appliances cost to run: https://www.nea.org.uk/get-help/resources/home-appliances-that-use-the-most-electricity/
Information on the Priority Services Register: https://www.thepsr.co.uk/
Energy suppliers commit to helping customers in debt – Energy UK (energy-uk.org.uk)
Additional support for customers – Energy UK (energy-uk.org.uk)
Citizens Advice and Energy UK Speak, Seek, Save campaign: Are you in energy debt? Speak, seek, save | by Emily Nix | Oct, 2023 | We are Citizens Advice
Ofgem – ‘Get help if you cannot afford your energy bills’: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/getting-help-if-you-cant-afford-your-energy-bills#:~:text=Suppliers%20must%20work%20with%20you,your%20payments%20and%20debt%20repayments
Ofgem – ‘Involuntary PPM – Supplier Code of Practice’: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2023-04/Involuntary%20PPM%20Code%20of%20Practice%20-%20Final_Publication%20Template.pdf
Compare the Market – Guide to Energy Payment plans: https://www.comparethemarket.com/energy/content/energy-payment-plans/
Government-funded schemes and measures
Find an EPC for a domestic property: https://www.gov.uk/find-energy-certificate
Get an EPC: https://www.gov.uk/get-new-energy-certificate
- PAS 2035/2030: https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/standards/pas-2035-2030/
- Trustmark: https://www.trustmark.org.uk/homeowner
ECO4 information: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications/energy-company-obligation-eco4-guidance-delivery
The Great British Insulation scheme: https://www.gov.uk/apply-great-british-insulation-scheme
NEST website (Wales): https://nest.gov.wales/
National Energy Action slides on schemes
Mental health resilience
Learn how to stay well and in love with your job this winter, with this 10 day series of simple and practical resources: https://winterwellbeing.aryanisha.com/registration
Join Luminous – Aryanisha’s free Facebook group to help you rest and reignite your influence. https://www.facebook.com/groups/luminouswitharyanisha
National Energy Action resources
National Energy Action: https://www.nea.org.uk/
Our social media:
- Twitter/X – @NEA_UKCharity
- Instagram – @nea_ukcharity
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Nationalenergyaction
Our available training:
- Course outlines: https://www.nea.org.uk/training/course-outlines/
- Training diary: https://www.nea.org.uk/training/training-diary/
Recording of the bootcamp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO4QRwgb3gs&ab_channel=NationalEnergyAction
- For use in schools and further education: https://www.nea.org.uk/training/education-resources/
- For delivering energy advice in the community: https://www.nea.org.uk/get-help/resources/
- Using our ‘ReciteMe’ accessibility tool: https://www.nea.org.uk/news/national-energy-action-adds-accessibility-tool-recite-me-to-website/?parent=advance-search
- What to do if you are struggling with your energy bills: https://www.nea.org.uk/get-help/key-things-to-do-if-you-are-struggling-with-your-energy-bills/
- Additional help: https://www.nea.org.uk/get-help/additional-help/
- Request a National Energy Action speaker: https://www.nea.org.uk/speaker-request/
- Membership: https://www.nea.org.uk/work-with-us/membership/
- Fuel Poverty Awareness Day: https://www.nea.org.uk/who-we-are/nea-campaigns/fpad/
Support with advocacy:
- Social tariff letter: https://www.nea.org.uk/social-tariff-letter/
- MP letter: https://www.nea.org.uk/energy-crisis/contact-your-mp/
- Help fight fuel poverty: https://www.nea.org.uk/help-fight-fuel-poverty/
Annual Conference (Early Bird prices): https://www.nea.org.uk/conf-early-2023/