For everyone involved in the customer-facing side of the energy market, this year has been predictably challenging due to the soaring household bills. The Warm Home Discount, which is about to enter its 13th year, has been a good source of support in previous years, but evidently, in 2022/23 it has barely touched the sides in terms of affordability for an increasing number of households.
The EBSS Energy Bill Support Scheme was introduced to take up the slack but come April of this year there are going to be a lot of conversations about creating a system that is sustainable and fair, as well as administratively efficient.
Charis has been involved with the WHD from the beginning, and in all honesty, we have never known a winter like this past year. This is the first year that the scheme has separated Scotland from England and Wales in line with new OFGEM regulations, and this has thrown up its own challenges as the routes to market and messaging are slightly different for all three nations. Between the Household Support Fund, the Warm Home Discount and the EBSS, there is still confusion and uncertainty about what help is available.
Charis is in a unique position to track the effects of changing legislation and the impact of pricing across the industry as a whole, and the distribution of funds. Our remit, working with energy companies, social landlords and charities, is to simplify and streamline the entire process so that the most vulnerable in our society get the help they need, fast.
Not only is it about helping with the bills but ensuring that energy efficiency is integrated into that support as well. Our Let’s Talk Energy fund, for example, processed over £200,000 of energy efficient white goods in Scotland alone – and part of the scheme ensures that delivering a high level of energy saving advice is woven into the very fabric of every bit of support.
We are keen to talk to utility providers about improving the quality of the support beneficiaries receive. We want to create partnerships that reduce energy consumption as well as support for bills We want to talk to organisations about how to reach customers who are off grid, such as our successful Park Homes Scheme. We want to talk to regional representatives who need a more specialised approach to funds administration. We want to talk to those who support the establishment of a universal social tariff.
Through our online shop platform and digital payment card, we have revolutionised the way funds can be administered and are looking to develop this further in the future.