Four in 10 Brits are concerned about affording their gas and electricity bills, with young people and renters the most worried.
The data, from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) latest Public Attitudes Tracker, found that households’ concern about energy bills rose modestly between March 2020 and March 2021, from 37% to 40%. But the effect of the coronavirus crisis hasn’t been felt evenly.
The pandemic has increased energy consumption in many households—as a result of home working and schooling and nights spent in—and thus hiked bills at a time many were facing reduced incomes.
One in ten (11%) are now more worried about their energy bills than either the cost of food and other household shopping costs and transport—up from 8% last year. 56% of those respondents attributed their concern to the high cost of energy bills compared to other household expenses. 53% reported that energy bills are their biggest worry because they can’t easily ‘go without’ heat or light compared to other items.
Those hit hardest by the pandemic, including young and low-income people, worry the most about keeping the lights on
58% of people aged 25 to 34 worry about the cost of their electricity and gas, compared to between 21% and 48% of other age groups.
Half of private (51%) and social renters (50%) are concerned about their bills, while just 36% of homeowners are. Those in social grades CDE are also more likely to fret about their fuel costs than those in social grades AB (46% versus 34%).
Many of those struggling with the cost of gas and electricity feel their supplier isn’t giving them a good deal. 35% of survey respondents said they had no or very little trust in their supplier to give them a fair deal. 38% don’t have confidence that their supplier is informing them about the best tariff for their household.
Without much trust in their energy suppliers, Britons are increasingly likely to ditch them for a better offer. In March, just 23% of respondents reported that they’d never switched energy supplier, compared to 26% in March 2020. Overall, 71% of respondents report that they’ve switched energy supplier, with 26% switching in the last year.
However, the data suggests that those most concerned about their energy bills are among the least likely to switch. While 82% of those 65 and older have moved to a new supplier, just 46% of those aged 16 to 24 have. Similarly, 78% of homeowners have chosen a new energy supplier, while just 57% of private renters and 59% of social renters have.
Some tenants may believe they can’t switch energy supplier. However, under consumer protection law, if you are directly responsible for the gas and electricity bills for the property, you have the right to choose your energy supplier and your landlord should not unreasonably prevent this.