As we struggle to deal with the worry that Coronavirus (COVID-19) brings all energy suppliers have plans in place to maintain their services, protect staff and support efforts to limit the spread of the virus.
With people working from home, schools and businesses closed our energy use is likely to increase. And many people, particularly older people, who are used to buying credit at local shops may find it difficult to top up as they now need to stay at home.
It’s a changing situation but we have tried to pull together useful information to help energy customers. We have also listed contact details for electricity and gas suppliers in Northern Ireland to help if you need to get in touch…
Plan your Spend: take some time to think how much you usually spend on electricity and gas (or home heating oil). Take a look at bills from this time last year to help. But also factor in that your energy use might be higher than this time last year as you will be at home for longer periods of time
Put Money Aside – If you can it is worth putting some money aside to cover higher energy bills. Or if possible consider topping up your meter more frequently to ensure your meter always has enough credit. Many suppliers also allow you to make additional (top-up) payments to credit (bill pay) tariffs – if you can this could prevent a bill shock later.
Friends and Family – If you cannot leave your home then make sure a family member, friend or neighbour can help ‘top up’ your electricity or gas card. They can take your card to the shop and top up for you. They can return this to you, taking sensible precautions and maintaining distance, so you can add the credit to your meter. If you meter is located outside, you can keep it unlocked or provide them with a key, so they can add the credit directly.
Switching – Switching supplier is one of the easiest and quickest ways to save money on your energy bills. Compare all suppliers, deals and tariffs with powertoswitch.co.uk. There will be no interruption to your supply and you don’t even have to tell your old supplier you are leaving. The process to switch suppliers will continue as normal.
For Customers with Electricity Prepayment Meters:
- Purchasing Credit – Consider other ways to buy credit for your electricity meter. If you usually buy from a local shop be aware most suppliers provide other ways to buy credit – this includes online on the company website, through an automated telephone service, their customer service teams or increasingly via the company App.
- Friends and Family – If you can’t use any of the options for topping up over the phone, online or app then buying credit up at a local paypoint / payzone outlet is still possible. As highlighted, if you cannot leave your home a family member, friend or neighbour might be able to top up your card for you.
For Customers with Gas Prepayment Meters:
- Purchasing Credit – Please remember that (unlike electricity) gas top ups can only be purchased at a PayPoint or Payzone outlet. So, this means that you must bring your card to the shop. Again, if you cannot or prefer not to leave your home a family member, friend or neighbour might be able to top up your card for you.
- Meter Access – Once you have nominated a family member or friend who can help, give them your meter box key so they can access the meter if it’s outside.
- Adding Credit – Consider topping up your meter more frequently to ensure your meter always has enough credit. For information, the maximum single top-up amount is £49
Bill Pay Electricity and Gas Customers
If you are an electricity or gas customer who receives bills or pays by direct debit, you don’t need to do anything different during this time. Most electricity suppliers provide account access (often online) so you can can access your previous bills, submit meter readings and make payments. Get in touch with your supplier to check if this is available and how to register – it will help give you more control in managing your account.
Submit Meter Reads – NIE Networks have stopped meter reads regardless of whether the meter is located inside or outside your property. To avoid any bill shocks we encourage you to submit regular meter readings to your supplier. This will also help your supplier consider any payment options or support if you are struggling with energy bills over the next few months.
Get in touch with your energy supplier
We urge you to get in touch with your energy supplier as soon as possible to discuss any issues regarding your energy account. This will be a challenging and uncertain time for many customers but all suppliers will be sympathetic and seek to work with you to find workable solutions.
And remember, your energy supplier can’t provide help if they don’t know you need it – so getting in touch with them is the first step. Contact details for all suppliers are shown below.
Your Electricity or Gas Supply
Your electricity or gas supply will not be disrupted as a result of COVID-19. As always, if you experience an interruption to your electricity, please contact NIE Networks Customer helpline on 03457 643 643. If you smell gas or you are worried about gas safety, phone the 24-hour Northern Ireland Gas Emergency Service on 0800 002 001.
Energy Supplier Contact Details
You will find details of your gas supplier on your gas utility bill or on your pre-payment top up card.
Further Information and Support
It is important to access trusted sources of up to date information and advice about COVID-19 and its impact not only on business but on families and the wider community.
NI Direct (www.nidirect.gov.uk) provides a range of information and links to support individuals and businesses in relation to COVID-19
Pubic Health Agency: (https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/). For the latest updates and health advice in relation to COVID-19
For more information on energy issues and switching visit www.powertoswitch.co.uk or follow us on facebook or twitter. And get in touch if you have any queries about managing your energy account at this time.