Business energy help for coronavirus lockdown

If the coronavirus lockdown means you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, don’t panic - the UK government has put measures in place to make sure your suppliers support you in the best way they can, which includes making sure your supply isn’t cut off.

If you're looking towards getting your business back up and running as government measures are relaxed, check out the Bionic business blueprint for getting out of lockdown.

In this guide, we'll take a look at what help is available for households and business energy users during the coronavirus pandemic, how the lockdown will affect any commercial energy deals you have, and how to keep energy costs down now everyone is at home all day.

Can you get help with gas and electric bills during coronavirus lock down?

Although there’s no financial help available for energy bills, suppliers have agreed with the government that no meters will be cut off during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Gas and electricity cut off laws in the UK have always meant that disconnection is a last resort for suppliers, and this legislation has now been tightened to safeguard households during the lockdown.

If you’re struggling with your domestic energy bills, perhaps because you're using more gas and electricity while working from home, or if you've lost your job or been placed on reduced hours or wages, you should speak to your supplier as soon as possible to explain the situation and work out an arrangement, which could include either of the following:

  • Debt repayments being reassessed, which could see them paused or cut.
  • Bill payments being reassessed, which could see them paused or cut.

If you're struggling to pay your business energy bills, perhaps because you've had to stop trading and your workplace is lying empty, give the energy experts at Bionic a call on 0800 078 3506 and we'll help you work out the best way to arrange a repayment plan with your supplier.

It’s also worth considering switching to a better deal, which can help lower your bills if you’re not currently on the best-priced plan.

The team at Bionic are on hand to compare business energy tariffs and rates from our trusted suppliers. Our comprehensive price-comparison only takes a matter of minutes, then all you need to do is choose the one that best suits your needs and we’ll handle the rest of the switch for you.

To compare domestic gas and electricity deals, head over to our energy switching partners at UKPower.

Can you  change your energy supplier if you’re  in debt?

Before you compare business or domestic energy deals, remember that if you’ve been in debt with your supplier for more than 28 days, you won’t be able to switch until the debt is paid off. 

And you won’t be able to compare business energy deals until your current deal enters its switching window, which is usually between one and six months before its end date.

What happens if you don’t pay your energy bills?

If you don’t pay your energy bills, you’ll fall into debt with your energy supplier and, although you won’t be cut off, your supplier can take steps to reclaim the debt, including putting you on a pre-payment meter.

If you’re not working because of coronavirus and you’re struggling to pay your household energy bills, speak to your employer about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will pay 80% of your income and look at whether you’re eligible for Universal Credit and housing allowance.

If you’re a business owner who now has no income because of the pandemic, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme is being launched to pay 80% of your average income and, again, it’s worth looking into Universal Credit and housing allowance.

If a lack of cash flow means you’re struggling to pay your business bills, it’s worth considering the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CBILS) to help cover these costs, or see if you can claim on your business interruption insurance.

What happens to your business energy deal if your workplace is empty?

Even if your business premises is empty, you’ll still be billed by your energy supplier unless you’re on a no-standing charge tariff. 

This is because energy bills are essentially made up of two charges, one of which you’re billed for regardless of whether or not you actually use any gas or electricity:

  • Unit cost - A charge for the amount of energy your business uses, each unit is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh).
  • Standing charge - A charge to cover the cost of transporting energy to your premises and maintaining the national grid. This is charged at a daily rate and regardless of whether or not you use any gas or electricity.

Although you’ll still be billed if your workplace is empty, the overall cost of your bills should be cheaper, provided you’re definitely no longer using gas and electricity. 

If your workplace is lying empty, make sure all equipment that can be is turned off at the mains and switch off any heating or lighting timers.

It might also be worth considering switching to a no-standing charge energy tariff, but bear in mind that unit costs are usually more expensive on these deals, so you could end up paying more for your energy once you go back to work.

Should you get a business energy deal when working from home?

If one or more of your household is working from home during the coronavirus lock down, you’ll be using a lot more gas and electricity than you normally would be. And all this extra used to power laptops, extra screens, lighting and endless cups of tea and coffee will ultimately lead to higher energy bills.

In which case, you might be considering swapping your domestic tariff for a business energy deal - but would you really be better off with a commercial contract?

What’s the difference between domestic energy and business energy?

Although they come from the same source and often even the same supplier, there are some distinct differences between business energy and domestic energy, including:

  • Cheaper rates - Business energy users benefit from cheaper rates than domestic users, largely because of the way contracts are set up and the fact that businesses use more gas and electricity. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d save money with a commercial deal. Once you factor in the 20% VAT rate (compared to 5% for household energy) and other charges, like the Climate Change Levy (CCL) you could end up paying more than you would with your fixed rate domestic tariff. Speak to the energy experts at Bionic for help working out the best option.
  • Long term fixed rates - While most domestic deals run for a year, with an option to leave early if you want (often subject to an early exit fee), commercial rates can be locked in for two, three or four years. This means you can avoid the inevitable annual price rises for a number of years, and tying in to a longer term deal means you might also be able to negotiate even cheaper rates. Although commercial deals have this added security, be aware there's no cooling off period, so it makes sense to arrange your deal with the Bionic team to ensure your deal meets your exact needs before you sign up.
  • A longer switching window - In theory, you can switch from a fixed rate domestic deal any time you want. But unless there are 49 days or less until your contract's end date, you'll most likely be charged an early exit fee, which can be anything up to £60 per fuel. Business energy deals, on the other hand, tend to offer a switching window of up to six months, during which time you can compare deals and arrange for the switch to take place as soon as your current one ends.
  • Fuel flexibility - Business gas and electricity is sold separately -  even if you have the same supplier for both, this won’t come as a dual fuel deal and you’ll have two separate contracts, possibly with two separate renewal dates to remember. If you switch business energy with Bionic, we take care of all renewals so you’ve no need to worry about missing your renewal date, and we can arrange to have your gas and electricity deals run concurrently, so they both have the same end date.

Can you get a business gas and electricity deal when working from home?

In order to qualify for a business energy tariff, you’ll need to be registered as a business or have a business rates document or other proof that your business exists, and be able to prove that a high proportion (usually 50% or more) of your energy use is for business purposes. 

Although this sounds a lot, you’ll most likely find that the extra lighting, heating and electricity to run your office equipment accounts for at least this much, but appliances that would be on regardless of your business being there, such as your fridge and freezer.

If you’re considering a business energy deal at home, you’ll probably find that a microbusiness energy contract is more suitable, as these work much more like domestic deals and you can let your supplier you want to switch at any point during your agreement.

To qualify for a microbusiness energy deal, you’ll also have to meet the Ofgem definition of a microbusiness, which means your company must:

  • Use less than 200,000 kWh of gas a year, or
  • Use less than 55,000 kWh of electricity a year, or
  • Have fewer than ten employees (or their full-time equivalent) and an annual turnover or annual balance sheet total not exceeding € 2 million.

If you think you’d benefit from a business energy deal, give the tech-enabled team at Bionic a call on 0800 077 3987.

How to save energy at home

Even if you’re not working remotely, the lock down means you’ll be spending more time at home anyway, which means you’ll still be using more energy than you usually do. 

Switching to a cheaper energy deal is a quick way to reduce your gas and electricity bills - remember, you can compare energy deals online in minutes at UKPower and the whole switch is handled automatically - but you should also make sure you're running your home as energy efficiently as possible.

Here are some tips on how to reduce your energy bill by saving gas and electricity at home.

  • Turn the heating off - Seeing as the weather is getting warmer, it makes sense to turn the heating off and wear an extra layer or two to keep out any chills. If you must have the heating on, try turning it down a degree or two at least.
  • Dry clothes outside - The warmer, drier weather means you can cut your electricity usage by line-drying clothes instead of using the tumble dryer or radiators.
  • Don’t stay on standby - Make sure any electrical equipment, including computers, televisions, games consoles and radios, are all switched off properly when not in use. Remember, appliances still use energy when left on standby, so switch off at the wall when you can.
  • Unplug unused chargers - Phone and laptop chargers still drain electricity when plugged in and switched on, even when there’s no device connected to them. So always switch off at the wall and unplug when not in use.
  • Switch off lights - Don’t leave lights on in empty rooms, and make the most of the longer days by working near windows to make the most of the natural light.
  • Don’t forget the kettle - All this extra time spent at home means your kettle will be put through its paces, so make sure you don’t reboil your kettle when making a cuppa, and only use as much water as you need.
  • Keep your house dust-free - A build up of dust on lights and the elements at the back of your fridge and freezer means they have to work harder, so use the extra time at home to get the duster out and give everything a once over to keep them clean and more energy efficient.

It’s important to make sure everyone in your home is on board with any energy-saving measures you put in place, and you all work together to keep costs down.