Getting ready for winter

Winter 2023 is nearly here so it’s time to prepare and get ready before the temperatures start to drop.  With prices rising so we want to equip you with useful tools and insights how to keep warm and energy costs manageable.

Energy Saving Tips!

Get to know your heating controls

Probably the biggest saver out there, is knowing how to utilise your heating controls. Remember to make use of the programmer and the thermostat so that the heating comes on as and when you need it.

Utilise your smart meter

With a smart meter display, you can see the direct impact your habits and lifestyle have on your bill. This is particularly useful to prepayment meter customers, who can better track how their usage impacts their available credit. By making your energy usage easier to understand, you can make smarter decisions to save energy and money.

Turn your heating on, only when you need it

The myth is ‘Leaving your heating on low all day will save you money and energy’ - but sadly, sometimes (depending on your lifestyle) this might not be the case. To keep costs low and your home warm, you should consider only to turn on your heating as and when you need it.

FAQs

What government support is available for heat network customers?

One initiative is the Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS), introduced by the UK government from April 1, 2023. This scheme aims to assist residents connected to heat networks by capping the cost of gas and electricity.

For residents to benefit from the discount, heat suppliers (the organisation who is purchasing the energy) must have applied for the for the discount through the Government portal no later than 25th July 2023.

You can read more about the EBDS in our blog here.

Please note Switch2 will only be responsible for registering and passing on any discount to eligible schemes for which we purchase the energy and set the tariff. If Switch2 is your billing agent but does not set your tariff, you will need to contact the relevant organisation e.g. your housing association, managing agent or local authority about the EBDS, as they will responsible for ensuring registration on the portal.

What is Switch2 doing about the increasing charges?

We are working with landlords and building owners to help improve the efficiency of heat networks. This will in turn reduce the amount of gas used, hence reducing costs and carbon. We are also lobbying government for equal support for heat network customers.

Why are my bills increasing so much?

The reason for the significant increase in bills is mainly due to the rising wholesale gas prices. Over the past year, various factors have led to higher costs for purchasing gas. It’s worth noting that many operators buy gas on fixed contracts, which means the price is set for the duration of the contract.

 

Another contributing factor is the difference in government support between communal heating/heat network customers and domestic gas and electricity customers. The support available for communal heating customers is currently less than what domestic customers receive. At Switch2, we are actively lobbying the government to provide comparable support for heat network customers.

We understand that these bill increases can be challenging, and we are doing our best to advocate for fairer support and more affordable options for heat network customers like yourself.

Will I pay more if I have a prepayment unit?

For all prepayment customers on our systems, the tariffs are the same as credit billing customers. Switch2 does not agree with prepayment customers paying a higher price for their heat.

What shall I do if I can’t afford to top up my prepayment unit to bring it back into credit?

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and need support paying your bill/topping up your account, contact myaccount@switch2.co.uk We have a professional and supportive team who can discuss the options available to suit your budget.

Why do heat network tariffs vary so much between heat networks?

Heat network tariffs can vary for several reasons:

 

Efficiency: The efficiency of a heat network plays a crucial role in determining the tariffs. More efficient networks will have lower tariffs, as they are able to achieve better energy utilisation and reduce costs.

Cost of Gas and Electricity: The prices of gas and electricity can vary based on factors such as the size and length of the contract. Different heat networks may have different contracts and arrangements in place, which can impact the tariffs.

Government Support: The amount of government support available also influences heat network tariffs. Government support can help in reducing costs and offering subsidies or incentives, which can vary from network to network.

These three factors – efficiency, cost of energy, and government support – contribute to the variation in heat network tariffs across different networks. It’s important to consider these factors when comparing tariffs and understanding the pricing structure of each specific heat network.

How does the cost of heat on a heat network compare to individual gas boilers and electric heating systems?

Heat on heat networks is cheaper than electric systems and comparable with gas boilers. The main difference at the moment is the amount of Government support available to residents on heat networks because gas for heat networks is bought on commercial contracts, benefiting from the EBRS (Energy Bill Relief Scheme) which is significantly less than those with individual gas boilers who benefit from EPG (Energy Price Guarantee).

How can I benefit from the new Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS)?

The EBDS will run until 31st March 2024, providing support to heat network customers.

For residents to benefit from the discount, heat suppliers (the organisation who is purchasing the energy) must apply for the for the discount through the Government portal.

You can read more about the EBDS in our blog here.

Please note Switch2 is responsible for registering and passing on any discount to eligible schemes for which we purchase the energy and set the tariff. If Switch2 is your billing agent but do not set your tariff, you will need to contact the relevant organisation e.g. your housing association, managing agent or local authority about the EBDS, as they will responsible for ensuring registration on the portal.

If you would like any further information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/energy-bills-discount-scheme-heat-networks-support

As a resident who lives on a heat network, am I eligible for support under Energy Bill Discount Scheme?

The Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS) works by setting maximum rates for the purchase of gas and electricity by your heat supplier. For gas, the capped rate is 7.83p/kWh, and for electricity, it is 34p/kWh. This means that your supplier cannot charge you more than these rates for your gas and electricity.

If your heat supplier has purchased your gas and electricity at a lower rate than the capped rates (e.g., 7.83p/kWh for gas and 28p/kWh for electricity), you will not be eligible for support under the EBDS scheme. This is because you are already benefiting from rates that are lower than the cap.

I'm a resident on a heat network and my tariff is 12p/kWh for heat, why am I not eligible for support under the EBDS?

If your heat supplier has purchased gas or electricity below the capped rates set by the EBDS, you will not be eligible for support under the scheme. It’s important to note that these capped rates are not what you directly pay through your heat charge on your tariff.

On a heat network, your heat charge is calculated using the cost per unit (p/kWh) of gas that your heat supplier buys at (the retail rate), along with system losses. For example, if the retail rate of gas for your heat network is 10p/kWh and the heat network operates at 50% efficiency, your heat charge would be 20p/kWh.

This means that even if your heat supplier purchases gas at a cost per unit below the EBDS cap (7.83p/kWh), it is highly unlikely to be charged at this rate in your heat tariff. In the UK, heat networks typically operate at an efficiency of 35-45%, resulting in a higher heat charge for residents.

As a heat network customer am I protected by the Ofgem price cap?

Heat networks are not regulated by Ofgem and heat network customers are not protected by the domestic price cap. The heat network operators (building owner/freeholder or their appointed energy company) buy the gas for the communal boilers on the commercial gas market, before converting it to heat for households. This means heat used for heat networks falls under ‘commercial’ not ‘residential’ heat. The price cap only covers residential energy. As of 1st April 2023, the Government introduced the Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS) to support residents connected to heat networks. The EBDS works by capping the cost of gas (7.83p/kWh) and electricity (34p/kWh) being purchased by the building owner or heat network operator.

Why is my standing charge increasing, not just the variable?

The standing charge has changed in line with indexation. However, some standing charges may have increased further resulting from higher fixed utility charges.

What is Switch2’s role in the communal heating system within my building?

Switch2 is here to help as a metering and billing agent, working on behalf of your developer, local authority, housing association, or managing agent. Our main role is to read the meters and send out the bills. In addition, we also provide maintenance services for heat networks.

It’s important to know that in many cases, we do not purchase gas or set the tariff. However, there are some communal schemes where Switch2 acts as the Energy Service Company (ESCo) or heat supplier. In those cases, we will directly communicate with the residents about tariffs and any government support available.

If you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to help you understand and navigate your heating arrangements.

What if I am vulnerable?

If you have a vulnerability, please let us know via the My Switch2 website. This helps us understand your situation better should you need help or advice.

What is heat network efficiency?

In heat networks, instead of an individual boiler the gas is burnt in a central plant room and heat is distributed through pipes to your property. There are significant advantages in doing it this way, especially in high rise buildings where delivering gas safely to each property is not possible. The heat network efficiency is the difference between the amount of gas burnt in the central boiler and the amount of heat recorded on your domestic heat meter in your heat interface unit (HIU). This takes into account combustion and gas boiler efficiency losses, along with the losses associated with pumping the heat around the network. The efficiency is a function of the design and age of the building and heat network, along with how well the network is maintained and operated. A low heat network efficiency means higher charges for heat. A higher efficiency means charges are lower. Higher efficiency also means the system produces less carbon emissions and is beneficial for the environment.

Energy price rises: How will communal heating customers be affected?

In September 2022, the UK Government announced additional support measures to help mitigate the soaring cost of energy prices, but what do these additional measures mean for customers on communal heating schemes?

Find out more

What is a heat network?

This short video will explain what a heat network is and the benefits of heat networks for landlords and residents.

Watch here