Help with energy bills – £400 energy rebate and more
If you're worried about how you'll pay your energy bills this winter, here's all the help with gas and electricity that students can get.
There are countless reasons for the current energy crisis that's being felt in the UK and across the world.
We're here to help you understand what's going on, and the help that's out there.
Read on to discover how much you could be paying for energy this year, plus the support funds you can look to for funding.
What's in this guide?
- Energy price cap explained
- What is the energy price cap 2023?
- Should you switch energy supplier?
- What to do if your energy supplier increases your Direct Debit?
- £400 government energy grant explained
- Hardship grants from energy suppliers
- Getting paid to reduce your electricity usage
- Energy crisis FAQs
What is the energy price cap?
The energy price cap is a legally enforced limit on the price of gas and electricity. It's designed to stop energy suppliers from charging you significantly more for energy than it costs them to source it.
Although it's often advertised as a cap on the overall cost of your bill, the energy price cap is actually a limit on the cost per unit of energy. This means there is no cap on how expensive your bill could be.
So when you hear of the energy price cap being £2,500 per year, this figure is what the average household's bill is capped at.
If your household size or energy usage exceeds the average, your annual bill could exceed the advertised price cap. And likewise, if you're part of a small household or use very little energy, your annual bill will probably be less than the advertised cap.
Also remember that, even if you somehow managed to use no energy at all, you'd still have to pay the standing charge. This is a daily fee you pay to cover the cost of supplying your property with gas and electricity, and it's also subject to a cap.
What is the energy price cap 2023?
The energy price cap is currently £0.34 per kWh for electricity (with a maximum standing charge of £0.46 per day) and £0.10 per kWh for gas (with a maximum standing charge of £0.28 per day).
For the average household, this caps the annual bill at £2,500.
The price cap used to change twice a year before a change in the rules meant it would be set every three months. However, starting with the current cap, which came into effect on 1st October 2022, it will be frozen for nine months until June 2023.
In fact, the October 2022 cap was meant to be significantly higher (£3,549) but the government set it far lower as this was seen to be too expensive.
It's also worth noting that even the caps on cost per unit and standing charges aren't the same for everyone. The actual figure will vary depending on your region, payment method and meter type – but not drastically.
And if you're thinking "using the heating has always been expensive, what's new?" – here's how the energy price cap has changed over the past couple of years:
|Date||Energy price cap (average annual bill)||Monthly cost||Change in monthly bill|
As you can see, before the current crisis, the energy price cap was relatively stable. The recent increases have almost doubled bills within the space of a year, which is why the government froze the cap and is providing extra support.
Should you switch energy suppliers?
For as long as we can remember, one of our top money-saving tips has been to switch energy suppliers. But, since the energy crisis started, we've had to rethink this.
Right now, almost every single energy company is charging the price cap. In other words, no matter who supplies your gas and electricity, you'll likely be paying the same amount. And if you need to pay an early-exit fee to leave your current provider, switching could actually cost you money.
With that in mind, our advice is now that you shouldn't switch energy suppliers.
The only exception to this is if you want to switch to Utility Warehouse. Their prices are slightly below the cap, although you may need to take out another service with them (like broadband or insurance) to get this deal.
What if your energy provider increases your Direct Debit?
When you pay your energy bills by Direct Debit, they generally charge you a flat amount each month. You might overpay in the summer and underpay in the winter, but the idea is that it levels out across the year. It's quick, easy and you usually get a small discount for paying this way.
But in the weeks and months leading up to October's price cap announcement, people across the country were contacted by their energy supplier to say their Direct Debit payments were going up. And often it was by several hundred pounds – far more than their actual bills would increase by.
So, if your Direct Debit also increases far above what your actual usage will be, here's what to do:
- Claim the money back – If your energy account is in credit (i.e. you've paid in more than needed), you can reclaim the extra money at any time. This won't change the Direct Debit going forward, but it does at least claw some cash back if they've already taken a huge payment.
- Try to change the Direct Debit online – Head to your online account and see if you can change the payment amount there. This may not work, but it's certainly worth a go.
- Call your supplier – Energy companies must be able to justify how they've calculated your Direct Debit amount. Ask them to supply the meter readings they've used to reach the new amount* and see if they match up with those on your bills. If your account is in credit, use this as proof that they're charging you too much.
- Complain to the energy ombudsman – If your supplier won't change your Direct Debit amount and can't explain why, you can complain to the industry ombudsman. Our guide to making complaints has more info.
* Take this as a reminder to submit monthly meter readings to your energy provider. Unless you have a smart meter, failing to submit readings just means your company has to guess how much energy you're using – and they could be way off.
£400 energy bill rebate
Back in February 2022, when it was becoming clear that energy bills were about to go through the roof, the government announced some extra financial support for UK households.
The first was a £150 council tax rebate, paid in April 2022. Depending on what type of accommodation you were in, and where in the UK you were, you may have received this – even if you're exempt from paying council tax (read this post for more details on the scheme).
The second was originally a £200 energy bill credit that customers would have to repay over five years. However, the government soon doubled this amount and, crucially, got rid of the need to repay it.
So, that's £400 paid into every energy account in the UK. But how does the payment work, and when will you get it – if at all?
How will the £400 energy grant be paid?
|How you pay your energy bill||How you'll get your £400 credit|
|Direct Debit||Either your Direct Debit will be reduced, or the money will be credited directly to your bank account|
|Standard credit*||Credited to your energy account|
|Smart prepayment meter||Credited to your energy account|
|Traditional prepayment meter||Voucher sent (either by text, email or post) to be used when you're topping up|
* 'Standard credit' is when you pay after receiving your bill.
This table covers how the energy grant will be paid by all the major suppliers. If you're after more specific info, your provider's website should go into more detail about how and when they plan to give you your grant.
No matter who you're with or how you pay for your energy, your £400 government grant will be sent to you automatically. You do not need to apply for it.
We've seen various reports of texts being sent around, asking people to apply for their energy grant. These are scams, and you shouldn't respond or click the links they contain.
You should also note that the energy grant won't be paid in one lump sum. The payments should have been made in the following chunks:
- October 2022 – £66
- November 2022 – £66
- December 2022 – £67
- January 2023 – £67
- February 2023 – £67
- March 2023 – £67.
£600 energy grant in Northern Ireland
If you live in Northern Ireland, you should have received your cash by now. However, it will have been £600 rather than the £400 paid elsewhere in the UK.
You should have received this as a single, one-off payment, possibly as early as January 2023.
If you pay your energy bill via Direct Debit, you should have received the £600 directly into your bank account. Everyone else should have been sent a voucher to redeem the £600 payment.
Receiving the energy grant if bills are included in your rent
Even if you don't directly pay energy bills yourself, you could still receive the £400 grant.
The government has confirmed that landlords will be legally required to pass the rebate onto tenants who pay their energy bill as part of their rent.
However, the specifics of this may vary depending on the kind of property you live in. To make things as clear as possible, we've split our guidance up between those in privately rented accommodation, and those in halls.
Renting from a private landlord
The legislation on this has now been published, but it's not exactly crystal clear. It all seems to depend on:
- Whether or not your tenancy agreement allows your landlord to charge you for increased energy prices
- If they have taken up that option.
This table quickly summarises the situation for each scenario, and you can click each answer for more details:
|Your landlord DOES have the option to charge extra||Your landlord DOES NOT have the option to charge extra|
|Your landlord HAS decided to charge extra||You should get the energy grant||Unclear|
|Your landlord HAS NOT decided to charge extra||Your landlord should keep the energy grant (up to a point)|
If your landlord does have the option to charge you extra for increased energy prices, and has done so, you should receive the £400 energy discount. This is because you and your housemates are the ones feeling the impact of the crisis, and therefore need the support.
If your landlord does have the option to charge you extra for increased energy prices, but hasn't done so, they can keep the energy grant. This is because they have protected you from price increases and absorbed it themselves, and therefore need the support.
However, in this instance, your landlord can only keep as much of the grant as covers the additional cost. For example, if they could have charged you an extra £300 for energy, that still leaves £100 of the £400 grant. That remaining cash has to be passed onto you.
And finally, what happens if your landlord doesn't have the option to charge you extra for increased energy prices? This is currently unclear, partly because there are two possible scenarios:
- Your landlord didn't expect energy prices to rise when they set the rent. As they also don't have the option to charge you extra, they would argue it's them who should keep the energy grant to cover the difference.
- Your landlord did expect energy prices to rise, so they set your rent at a higher level to cover future costs. In this instance, it's arguably you who should get the energy grant, as you're the one impacted by rising prices.
But as far as anyone can tell, there's no guidance either way. As ever, we'll update this page when we get more information.
In the meantime, if you've read this and think you're entitled to the energy grant, but your landlord hasn't contacted you, we'd advise you to contact them.
The government has published a template letter that you can use. It outlines precisely what's required of your landlord, including links to the relevant legal guidance.
Renting a room in private or university halls
Unfortunately, the government has now confirmed that it won't be giving any energy bill support to students living in halls. This is despite the fact that many universities and private accommodation providers will have increased rents for the 2022/23 academic year in anticipation of rising energy costs.
Financial support from energy suppliers
In addition to the government grant, you may be able to get some non-repayable support from your energy supplier.
Some providers – especially the big ones – offer non-repayable support to people struggling to pay their bills.
As with university hardship funds, energy suppliers are pretty strict about who can access this cash. You'll usually need to provide proof of income, complete a budget, and explain how you've ended up in this situation and how the grant will help you. You may also need to have spoken to a debt adviser to be considered eligible.
There will also be more specific eligibility criteria depending on who supplies your energy. Some will only help customers receiving a form of benefits, some will need your account to be in debt by at least a certain amount, and others will stop you from applying if you've already received cash from the fund in the past year or two.
Below, we've summarised what's on offer from some of the biggest suppliers, and how to apply.
Energy company hardship grants 2023
|Energy supplier||Grant available||How to apply|
|British Gas (also open to customers of all suppliers)*||Up to £1,500||Via the British Gas Energy Trust website|
|EDF||Varies by circumstances||Via this online form or by calling 0800 269 450|
|E.on Next||Varies by circumstances||Via this online form|
|Octopus Energy||Varies by circumstances||Via the Octopus Energy website|
|Scottish Power||Varies by circumstances||Via this this online form|
|Utility Warehouse||Varies by circumstances||Call Utility Warehouse on 0333 777 0777|
* The eligibility criteria will vary slightly depending on whether you're a British Gas customer or not.
Note that this is not a comprehensive list of all energy grants on offer. If you can't see your supplier in the table, it's worth visiting their website or contacting them yourself to see if they offer a similar scheme.
Getting paid to reduce your electricity usage
British Gas, EDF, E.on Next, Octopus Energy and Ovo have all announced plans to pay customers for cutting their use of electricity during peak hours.
The exact workings of each scheme vary between suppliers, but fundamentally the rules are the same. For starters, you'll need to have a smart meter so your supplier can track exactly how much electricity you're using, and when.
Participating customers will be asked to reduce their electricity use during peak hours, which tend to be between 4pm – 7pm. The energy supplier will then pay you, usually as credit to your account.
How much you could earn depends on who you're with and how much you cut your usage by, but it total as much as £100 over the winter months.
Given how short the peak hour period is, it's definitely worth giving it a go. You use the time to head to the gym, go for a walk, or even study in the warmth of the library.
We're still waiting for more details from a few companies, but British Gas, Octopus and Ovo customers can check out the following pages for more info on their schemes:
The National Grid's Demand Flexibility Service
Many of the companies offering to pay customers to reduce their energy usage are doing so under a scheme announced by the National Grid (the company in charge of supplying energy in the UK).
According to the National Grid's guidance, energy suppliers that have opted-in to the scheme will contact eligible customers inviting them to take part.
Other help with energy bills from your supplier
Even if you're not eligible for a hardship grant from your energy supplier, there are still ways they can help you, including:
- Extra time to pay
- A review of your current payment plan
- Creating a debt repayment plan
- Payment breaks.
To find out all of your options, contact your supplier or head to their website.
Energy crisis FAQs
Will energy prices go down in 2023?
The official energy price guarantee for April – June 2023 is well over £3,000. However, through the Energy Price Guarantee, the government has limited this to £2,500.
From July, many experts say the cap will fall to closer to £2,100, remaining around that level for the rest of 2023.
However, these are just predictions and it's impossible to say for sure what will happen. It's also worth bearing in mind that the government has changed its policy on energy bills a number of times, often at just a few weeks' notice.
How can you save money on your energy bills?
Students have always been pretty good at keeping energy bills down. But this year, you might find you need to go to extra lengths to save money on gas and electricity.
They'll keep you nice and toasty throughout the winter, but should cost much less to run than the radiators in your house. You can find out more about them, including how to use them safely, in our full guide to getting cheap electric blankets.
That's just one hack though. Check out our guide to saving on energy bills for loads more tips.
Is there any extra energy bill support for students?
In short, no.
Aside from the £400 energy bill credit, the vast majority of financial support that the government has announced won't help students.
Most of the extra funds for those on low incomes require you to be claiming some kind of benefit or Universal Credit. But students usually aren't eligible for these, so despite being on a low income (often lower than some people who are eligible), they can't receive the financial support the government has issued to tackle the energy crisis.
We'll continue to pressure the government to issue extra funding that's available to all students. But if you're among the minority of students who are eligible for benefits, this page summarises the additional support that's available.
What happens if your energy company goes bust?
In the past year or so, a number of energy suppliers have gone bust. If this happens, don't panic.
When an energy company goes out of business, its customers are simply moved to another company. You won't need to do anything. And, as all providers are currently charging the energy price cap, you won't end up paying extra either.
In a very small number of cases, the government may decide that a failing provider is too big and has too many customers to move to a competitor. If so, they'll place the company into what's known as 'special administration'.
This happened to Bulb when it faced financial trouble in late 2021. In October 2022 it was eventually bought by Octopus Energy, with its customers moving to the new supplier. But until then, the company basically ran as usual with no added costs or risks to Bulb's customers.
How much does it cost to use each device in your home?
Whether you're a keen gamer or you drink 20 cups of tea a day, you probably have at least one electronic device that gets you through the day.
Knowing how much each of these costs to run is vital to keeping your bills down this winter. So, to give you an idea of where you can make some savings, we've listed the cost of energy per device under the new price cap. You might be shocked at just how expensive it is to run showers...
How should you decide how much energy to use?
Surviving shared living can be tricky at the best of times, and an energy price crisis hardly helps matters. Arguments about leaving lights on or leaving things on standby could get a lot more intense this year...
We can't resolve every dispute for you, but we can help with a couple of biggies: heating and showering.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that you keep your home at around 18°C. It also suggests a minimum of 16°C if anyone with respiratory problems or allergies lives in your house, and a minimum of 20°C if you live with anyone sick, disabled, or very old or young.
Remember that central heating doesn't just serve to keep you warm, either. If your house gets too cold, patches of damp may emerge. Worse still, your landlord could hold you responsible if they conclude that you didn't properly ventilate or heat the property.
It could be an idea to set your thermostat to around 14°C or 15°C overnight to ensure the house doesn't get too cold. Then, during the day, perhaps set it to 18°C and use the timer so the heating only comes on when you and your housemates will actually be around.
How do you split energy bills?
Our guide to student bills has everything you need to know about setting up utilities and splitting the costs.
But arguably the most important point, especially with energy bills becoming so expensive, is to make sure nobody is left in the lurch.
If you choose to nominate one flatmate to handle energy bills, it's vital that you transfer the money comfortably before they need to pay. That way, they shouldn't be hitting the limit of their student overdraft just to cover your share of the bill.
Our list of the best money-saving tips has loads of hacks for helping you fight the cost of living crisis.