Running a business is tough, and to pile on the pressure, energy prices are now through the roof. There’s zero shame in admitting you’re finding it difficult to pay your energy bill, especially during the dark, frosty winter we’re enduring at the same time as a cost of living crisis.
You’re not alone. Thousands of small businesses are facing the same situation this winter, but the good news is there’s help out there. We’re going to discuss some potential solutions for anyone in this position, and share some tips which might help your business.
How do I check if my business has any options with its energy supplier?
The very moment you find yourself facing the prospect of not being able to pay your energy bills, immediately contact your supplier. The earlier you do it, the better your chances of coming to an agreement.
Remember, if they can’t collect money from a customer, it’s as much their problem too, so it’s in their best interests to help you arrange a payment plan. Together, you’ll be able to map something out, which is much better than having letters come through your mailbox prompting you to take action.
After all, they can’t fix an issue they don’t know is there, and it looks so much better if you address it as soon as you can, and show a willingness to resolve the problem.
When you talk to your energy supplier, they can go over:
An overview of your account and your usage
The opportunity to extend your payment deadline or to set up a payment plan
Payment breaks or reductions
Access to hardship funds
We understand there’s a chance you won’t come to an agreement with your supplier, and if that’s the case, try contacting Citizens Advice.
If the situation between you and your energy provider escalates to the point that you may be disconnected, contact the consumer helpline who can offer support and may be able to help you resolve the issue. Again, if you need an energy supply to generate income in your business (and therefore pay your bills), it’s in their best interests to keep you connected!
Am I eligible for the Energy Bill Relief Scheme?
You might be able to claim a discount on gas and electricity for your small business through the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme. Support is available to any non-domestic customers (including businesses and charities) who are on one of the following:
An existing fixed-price contract agreed on or after 1 December 2021, or are signing a new fixed-price contract
A variable ‘Day Ahead Index’ tariff, used by customers in Northern Ireland)
‘Deemed’ rates (where no contract or agreement is in place, such as when a new tenant moves in and takes over an existing supply) or ‘out-of-contract’ rates (when the agreement has ended, and there isn’t another to replace it)
A flexible purchase or a similar contract
The scheme launched 1st October 2022, and is available up until 31st March 2023. If you weren’t aware of this scheme or if you’re not sure whether you have been receiving energy bill relief, check out the GOV website for more information.
Shop around for a new supplier
If you’re not satisfied with the help or service your current supplier is offering, then you’re perfectly entitled to shop around elsewhere.
This could make a huge difference, with the Business Comparison website stating a quick energy comparison could save your business up to 40% per year on its energy costs.
As accountants we usually recommend that businesses regularly review suppliers anyway, to make sure you’re not paying more for goods or services than you need to.
Running a business already means you have lots to think about, but adding this to your quarterly task list will help you stay on top of your costs, without losing out on quality.
It’s also well worth monitoring your financial reports on a more regular basis too. It will help you spot spending patterns, and identify areas which could be more efficient.
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Look for other finance schemes and grants
It’s very common for energy companies to offer schemes and grants that help you with your energy efficiency, which in turn reduces your bill. You’ll need to speak with your supplier to see what they have on offer (which is why contacting them immediately is a must).
If you find your supplier has nothing to offer, there are other options:
Ask your local council about small business funding
You can seek help from charities by checking their free grants scheme (Grants Online) or go on Let’s Talk and see if there are any business funds you can apply for
Get as much advice as you can
This is brilliant for two reasons. One, you might be offered a potential solution and two, speaking to someone about your situation and knowing you’re not alone can be very beneficial to your mental health. Running a business can be very rewarding, but it can also sometimes feel a bit lonely.
Have a chat with your accountant for more advice and support or visit Business Debtline.