Businesses all across the UK are struggling to adjust to the government’s isolating and social distancing guidelines as COVID-19 continues to keep the country in lockdown.
The director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Carolyn Fairbairn has told the Guardian that without an extension of the coronavirus business interruption load scheme (CBILS) and a new round of grants for small companies that didn’t qualify for loans, the pandemic will push thousands of previously solvent firms to the wall.
Businesses of all sizes have been forced to close during the crisis, and are facing a great deal of uncertainty. One area, in particular, that is of concern to business owners is the energy sector, whether that’s worries about being left without power due to unpaid bills or interruptions to cash flow.
What is the Government doing to help businesses with their energy supply?
The government has put in place emergency measures to protect the domestic energy supply of customers, but it has left many business energy customers still feeling left in the dark. However, the good news is that there are safeguards to ensure businesses aren’t left without power during the crisis.
The Government has also put in place financial support for businesses who have been forced to suspend operations for the foreseeable future. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows companies to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their profits (up to £2,500 a month), plus, tax and business rates relief is also available.
For more information, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) has released advice for customers, suppliers and networks, ensuring everyone feels reassured about their situation.
What are the Big Six energy suppliers doing?
SSE has committed to only carrying out emergency metering work. This means that engineers will only complete work on meters that would otherwise result in customers being left off supply – all other bookings have been suspended.
In the event of an electricity or gas supply emergency, you’ll need to call your power distribution network operator or the gas emergency service as usual.
SSE intends to ensure all business energy customers receive the services they require through a combination of social distancing and online platforms. Call centre staff will be available to answer calls from home. However, they are urging as many people as possible to use online facilities.
Businesses are advised to turn off all non-essential energy consumption and to get in touch with SSE to discuss your situation if you’re worried about making your bill payments.
British Gas has stated that their customers and employees remain their top priority, making sure they work hard to prioritise emergencies and put the needs of the most vulnerable first.
Businesses that have found themselves unable to operate during the pandemic are urged to contact British Gas to discuss solutions and work together to create a payment plan that works for all parties.
For businesses that are still operating, British Gas has created a guide to business tips and energy-saving advice to keep your bills low during the pandemic. You can also learn more information in the COVID-19 FAQ section or on the British Gas help and support page.
EDF wants to reassure its customers that their generation teams have been classed as key workers, meaning their business customers will continue to receive the energy they need.
For businesses with concerns about okaying bills on time, EDF has additional support and flexibility where needed. Each case will be looked at on an individual basis, but you may be eligible for longer repayment periods, delayed payments or set up alternative payment arrangements.
To aid their most vulnerable customers, those who are eligible can ask to be added to the Npower Priority Services Register for free, giving them access to extra support for communication, safety and access needs.
While engineers are following safety guidelines and wearing appropriate PPE, they are asking customers to submit their readings online wherever possible to minimise the amount of contact between engineers and customers during the pandemic.
Power business customers affected by COVID-19 should speak to an advisor as soon as possible. They’ll take your individual situation into account and do what they can to come to a suitable arrangement.
Scottish Power has reduced its call centre staff in accordance with advice from the government. They are asking that customers call only in an emergency.
Instead, Scottish Power is urging customers to utilise the supplier’s online functionality. Customers can manage their account online 24/7 by registering here, giving them access to managing their bill, making payments and renewing or changing their tariff.
Business energy customers who obtain their energy via EON will receive support from the supplier, whatever the size of their company.
Although EON is advising customers to keep the phone lines free for emergency use, there are several contacts available for customers to email that should cover any assistance required during the pandemic.
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