On Friday 19 January 2024, Chris O’Shea—CEO of Centrica, the parent company of British Gas—went on BBC Breakfast and openly stated that he simply could not justify his £4.5 million salary. The executive told BBC hosts Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty that there was “no point” in trying to defend his multi-million-pound pay packet when so many of his customers were currently struggling to pay their energy bills.
The CEO went on to say: “I suppose for the same reason—I mean if you look, the average salary in the UK is around £30,000. All of us sitting here on this sofa will make substantially more than £30,000. It’s not for me to set my own pay. It’s not for you to set your own pay.”
According to The Guardian, O’Shea, who has been the chief executive of Centrica since 2020, received bonuses totalling £3.7 million in 2022 on top of his £790,000 annual salary. The bonuses were paid out as the British Gas parent company made record profits of £3.3 billion after oil and gas prices jumped after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
With energy bills and costs being such a prevalent conversation right now, I’m here to break down the most recent updates and also provide you all with some quick and easy energy-saving tips I’ve seen, as well as a bunch of different support schemes you can potentially apply for.
The UK’s cost of living crisis has impacted people in so many ways, and energy bills have played a huge role in this. In previous Explained By a Blonde articles, I’ve covered a lot of different financial topics that have been affecting Gen Z specifically and while this subject is slightly more serious than, let’s say, hacks for ‘no spend Jan’, I think it’s important we discuss this. Your favourite blonde’s got you.
The Financial Times’ latest analysis suggests that over 5 million Britons live in households that are behind on their energy bills. Moreover, since the winter period of 2020/2021, energy prices have soared from an average of £1,042 to now being £1,928 for a typical household, as reported by National Energy Action (NEA).
And while some news publications have predicted that household energy bills will fall in the Spring—potentially by as much as 16 per cent—there are still so many people who could have their gas and electricity cut off this year.
A survey conducted on behalf of Citizens Advice found that in 2023, approximately 1.7 million people disconnected from their prepayment metres at least once a month. It also suggests that of those who were cut off, some 800,000 people went without gas and electricity for more than 24 hours because they could not afford to top up. This left them unable to take a shower or make a hot meal.
A number of charities are concerned that the situation has become even more difficult in 2024 as the energy price cap increased in January, making both gas and electricity more expensive during the colder months. As prepayment customers are unable to spread the cost of their energy payments throughout the year, it is more likely for customers to run out of credit and have their supply knocked off during winter months.
While there are some obvious energy-saving tips out there, I thought it might be useful to delve into some interesting pieces of advice I’ve seen on TikTok recently that maybe haven’t been advertised as broadly.
For one, investing in a heated blanket could be a lifesaver when it comes to the colder months. While they might sound like an unnecessary expense at the moment, in the long run, they’ll make a huge difference to your monthly heating bills.
Installing an energy-efficient shower head would also help to massively reduce the amount of water used by either regulating the flow or aerating the water. They can be purchased at any home improvement shop and fixed independently. Some water companies even provide them for free.
There are a couple of different government schemes that people have been able to sign up for regarding getting help with energy bills. One of the most prominent is the Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS), which is available to vulnerable and low-income households.
In this scheme, low-income households on means-tested benefits will receive £900 (three instalments over spring/autumn 2023 and spring 2024). Pensioners received £300 during one instalment in winter last year and those on certain disability benefits received £150 during summer 2023.
Another option to consider is the Energy Bills Discount Scheme (EBDS), which runs for 12 months from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024 and is geared towards helping businesses with their energy bills.
Finally, the Warm Home Discount scheme offers a one-time £150 payment off your electricity bill for winter 2023 to 2024. This is a one-off discount applied to your electricity bill. You can check if you’re eligible for this discount here.