Thursday 19 March 2020 9:52 am

UK agrees measures to protect households' energy supply

The government and energy companies have agreed emergency measures to safeguard vulnerable households through the Covid-19 pandemic.

From today, customers with pre-payment meters who cannot add credit will be able to contact their supplier to agree other options to keep their power on.

These could include being sent pre-topped up cards, nominating a third party to pay for credit top-ups and having a discretionary fund applied to their credit.

Read more: Give it the green light: Helsinki wants eco ideas for its energy revolution

Disconnection of credit meters will also be suspended. And energy customers in financial distress can ask suppliers for debt repayments, or for bills to be paused or reassessed.

The measures are aimed at ensuring those who self-isolate over coronavirus can still access energy.

The government estimated more than 4m households could benefit from the measures.

Read more: FTSE 100 in the red despite huge ECB coronavirus stimulus

All of Britain’s domestic energy suppliers have signed up to the plan, which has come into effect immediately.

“Today those most in need can rest assured that a secure supply of energy will continue to flow into their homes during this difficult time,” business and energy secretary Alok Sharma said.

‘Energy customers breathe sigh of relief’

And Citizens Advice has given the measures its backing.

Consumer magazine Which also welcomed the announcement.

Read more: TfL to shut 40 Tube stations as Londoners told ‘don’t travel’ over coronavirus

Natalie Hitchins, head of homes products and services at consumer magazine Which, said: “Hard-up energy customers will breathe a sigh of relief that these new emergency measures will protect them from steep bills and losing their energy supply during these uncertain times.”

Sign up to City A.M.’s Midday Update newsletter, delivered to your inbox every lunchtime

Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, David Smith, said: “The UK’s electricity and gas network is one of the most reliable in the world and over 36,000 employees are working flat out to continue to provide a safe and reliable supply of energy during this time.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Rishi Sunak leaves door open for ‘helicopter money’ strategies

Energy relief comes as coronavirus measures ramp up

The relief on energy supply came as the UK government outlined tougher measures to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more: Coronavirus: UK schools will shut from Friday ‘until further notice’

Yesterday, the government announced most schoolchildren will be sent home from Friday.

And London is bracing for a lockdown that could be similar to measures taken in other European capitals.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also announced £330bn worth of loans to help struggling businesses as well as a period of no business rates.