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Switch it up: Save hundreds on your energy bills

Consumers urged to change energy suppliers and potentially save hundreds of pounds a year

As turbulence hits the energy market, with two small energy firms going bust before Christmas and Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis predicting “up to 30” more could be at risk, consumers are being urged not to fear switching their supplier.

GB Energy and Open Electric shut down shortly before Christmas, affecting more than 160,000 customers, with industry experts saying rising wholesale prices, low fixed-rate tariffs and a cold snap were leading to increased demand, which created a ‘perfect storm’ that smaller firms could not weather.

A recent national survey has found that 45 per cent of Brits have never switched energy provider

Mark Todd, co-founder of switching site Energy Helpline, acknowledged that 30 companies may be “potentially vulnerable” to closure this winter, mostly because of rising international wholesale prices. Energy Helpline expects these wholesale price increases to be passed on to consumers in the form of an average five per cent price hike in 2017.

But he said “no one needs to be scared” of switching provider because of the protection regulator Ofgem offers. “If an energy customer switches from their default option to their cheapest deal the average saving is £337 a year, enough to take most out of fuel poverty,” said Todd.

A recent national survey has found that 45 per cent of Brits have never switched energy provider. A quarter of respondents to this month’s Gocompare Energy survey said the process of changing seemed too complicated.

The Scottish Government is attempting to make it easier for Scots to make the switch. The Home Energy Scotland team is offering impartial money-saving advice, and can connect households north of the border with Citrus Energy to help search the market for the best gas and electricity rates.

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The Scottish Government is offering interest-free loans towards the cost of making energy efficiency improvements, such as double-glazing or boiler replacements, and is also offering to top this up with a grant covering 25 per cent of the cost.

Many local authorities in England and Wales have set up schemes to help residents find the cheapest rates by sharing current fuel bill information online. The Big London Energy Switch, run by 23 councils in the capital, has encouraged providers to compete to offer the cheapest rates to residents who have signed up to the scheme.

Which? has warned of the financial cost of doing nothing. The consumer group said more than half of the fixed-price energy deals that ended in December would leave consumers at least £250 worse off in 2017 if they don’t take action to find a replacement deal.

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