UK lockdown: how does it affect your energy supply?

UK lockdown begins

As the UK edges towards one month of lockdown, what are energy suppliers doing to help their customers? The government has worked with providers to launch emergency measures in order to ensure all customers are protected during this difficult time, including help to pay energy bills and help to top up prepayment meters.


Up-to-date coronavirus adviceMake sure you check official sources like the UK government and the World Health Organisation to ensure you get the most accurate and updated information regarding the developing situation.

Britain has been in lockdown for nearly a month. This involves the closure of all non-essential businesses, a ban on public gatherings and a strict limitation on travel.

These restrictions have left a lot of our customers with questions about their energy supply. Will my energy supply be affected by the lockdown? Can I still go out to top-up my prepayment meter? Here we answer all your questions with the most up-to-date advice and guidance from the government, UK energy suppliers, Ofgem, and Citizens Advice.

Energy is an essential business!

First things first, the energy sector is classed as an essential service in the lockdown. Your energy supplier will continue to operate during this time. Your supply will not be affected and you can still contact your energy provider if you need to.

While these are unprecedented circumstances, the energy industry has contingency plans in place to ensure services do not get disrupted, and the government has agreed on emergency measures to ensure customers - especially vulnerable customers - are protected during the Covoid-19 outbreak.

Those most in need can rest assured that a secure supply of energy will continue to flow into their homes during this difficult time.

Secretary of State for Business and Energy

In other words, you do not need to worry about your gas and electricity supply being turned off!

Energy regulator Ofgem is functioning as normal, meaning energy suppliers are held to the same rules and regulations as before, and Ofgem can act to protect you if these are breached.

Help for prepayment customers

 Can I leave my house to top up my meter?

You are allowed to leave the house to top up your prepayment meter if you are unable to do so online or over the phone. Shops that typically act as PayPoint or Payzone outlets, such as petrol stations, newsagents and corner shops, are allowed to stay open during the lockdown. Some suppliers also let you top up at the Post Office, which will also remain open.

If your usual top up store is closed, you can use PayPoint or Payzone’s store locator to find a practical alternative. If you cannot find an alternative store nearby, you should contact your supplier. They might be able to offer a different top up method, such as phone or text. If there are no other options, the last resort will be to install a normal meter (where you pay monthly/quarterly) in your household.

 How can I top up if I can’t leave my home?

Measures agreed with the government mean suppliers must offer customers who cannot leave their house alternative top up methods. If you are ill or self-isolating, you must contact your supplier to discuss your options. Alternatives may include:

  • someone being sent to top up your meter for you
  • a pre-loaded top up card (gas and/or electricity) being sent to your house
  • funds added to your credit meter

Ofgem advises customers with outside meters to leave their meter boxes unlocked (if it is safe) if they agree with their supplier for someone else to top up their meter.

Another easy alternative is to ask a family member, friend or neighbour to top up your meter. Simply give them your gas and/or electricity card and they can take it to your local store to top up.

Prepayment policies of different suppliers (updated April 2020)

If you are at high risk or self isolating and cannot leave your home, all energy providers suggest asking a family member/friend/neighbour to top up for you. This is the easiest and quickest way to top up if you can’t yourself. However, this will not be an option for everyone.

Top up for prepayment smart metersRemember, if you have a prepayment smart meter, you can top up online through your energy account. This will not be affected by the lockdown and is the best way to top up if you can't leave your household.

In the table below we have listed the options a number of energy suppliers are offering for prepayment customers who have no other way to top up their meter.

Energy Provider
Help for prepayment customers
Contact number
Big six suppliers
British Gas Get in touch with British Gas and they will come up with
a solution that works for you.
0330 100 0303
EDF Energy EDF has said it can issue preloaded cards and keys.
Call EDF to set it up.
0333 200 5110
E. ON E. ON has said it can send preloaded cards and keys
to your home. Call to sort this out.
It is also committed to increasing emergency credit
for gas meters to £50, and is working on a solution
for electricity meters.
However, you or someone who can help you needs to go
to a top store to set this up.
0345 052 0000
Scottish Power On its website, it simply advises customers to ask a
friend/family member/neighbour to top up for them.
There is no advice if this is not an option.
If no one can top up for you, you will need to contact
Scottish Power to discuss your options.
0800 027 0072
Npower Npower asks you to contact them if no one can top up
your meter on your behalf.
They will work out a solution that suits you.
0800 073 3000
SSE You can top up over the phone and SSE will send an engineer to
deliver your top up card/key with the credit amount.
You need to call SSE to top up in this way.
0345 072 9495
Medium and smaller suppliers
Boost Contact Boost directly in order to work out an option
that works for you.
See more information on advice Boost has given its customers.
0117 332 3728
or
0330 102 7517
Green Network Energy Green Network Energy suggests it can send someone to
top up your meter, add emergency funds to your
credit, or send you a preloaded top up card.
Contact the supplier to sort one of these options out.
0800 520 0202
Green Star Energy Other than asking a friend/family member to top up for you,
Green Star Energy offers no further advice.
We suggest you contact the provider to discuss your options.
0800 012 4510
Nabuh Energy You will need to contact Nabuh Energy directly to work
out a solution.
0330 0414 902
Octopus Energy
&
Co-op Energy
Octopus Energy has not announced any specific action.
Contact the supplier to work out a solution.
0800 093 7547
Orbit Energy Orbit Energy has said it can send preloaded cards to your
address if you have no other top up options.
Call the emergency team to sort this out.
0333 103 8277
PFP Energy PFP Energy ask you to call immediately if no one can
top up on your behalf.
01772 395777
Robin Hood Energy Send an email to customerservice@robinhoodenergy.co.uk
to arrange an alternative top up method.
If you have run out of credit and the issue is urgent,
text 'Support' to 80818.
0800 030 4567
Shell Energy Shell Energy has said you can top up your meter over
the phone during this time.
0330 094 5802
Spark Energy Spark Energy suggests you call directly if you have no
other top up options.
It has not outlined what alternative options it can offer.
0345 034 7474
Utilita Customers are advised to download the My Utilita App from the
Google Play or App store- you can top up through the app.
A family member/friend can download this for you, log in with
your account details and top up on your behalf.
If this is not an option, contact Utilita directly.
0345 207 2000
Utility Warehouse Utility Warehouse has not outlined its advice for prepayment
customers.
Call the supplier to discuss your options.
0333 777 0777

Help if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills

Part of the emergency package launched by the government includes help if you are struggling to pay your energy bills due to the lockdown. If this applies to you, you must contact your supplier to discuss your options. These may include:

  • bill payments being reduced, delayed or paused
  • repayment plans being reassessed
  • access to hardship finds

Credit meters will not be disconnected during this time, even if you can’t afford to top up.

Meter readings and accessibility

gas meter

Energy suppliers are trying to keep everything running as usual, which means customers with normal meters still need to submit meter readings. If you have a smart meter, these will continue to be submitted automatically, while non-smart meter customers will need to submit regular meter readings as usual.

If for whatever reason, you cannot access your meter to take a reading, you need to contact your provider - they should move your meter free of charge so you have better access. This also applies to your top-up meter if you cannot access it. If your provider tries to charge you for this service, you should look to switch suppliers. Call Selectra on 02039 360059 to discuss your options.

Smart meter appointments

Energy suppliers are not carrying out non-essential home visits. This affects smart meter appointments - all smart meter installation appointments will be postponed until the lockdown is over.

The only time an installation will be allowed is if it is classed as an emergency meter exchange. For example, if you cannot top up your prepayment meter, or cannot reach your meter to take readings, your energy supplier might swap your meter to a smart meter to get around the problems - smart meters can be topped up online and meter readings are automatically submitted.

What to do in an emergency

If you encounter any problems with your gas or electricity meter, e.g. your meter breaks, you need to contact your energy supplier. Your supplier will have put plans in place to deal with essential home visits, e.g. to replace a faulty meter, in a safe manner that abides by the government’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines.

Gas and power cuts

Emergency services are still operating as normal, which means the process if you experience a gas leak or power cut is the same during the lockdown.

  • Gas leak - If you suspect a gas leak, get out of your house and call the National Gas Emergency Number on 0800 111 999.

  • Power cut - If you experience a power cut, you can call 105 or your Distribution Network Operator to report the issue. Services will work to get everything back to normal as quickly as possible. If the power outage causes a serious health risk, you should also contact the emergency services on 999.
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