Big Energy Week begins - with 43% of people worried about bills

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Big Energy Week begins today (January 16), with new research showing 43% of people are worried they can't afford their next fuel bill.

A further 50% claim energy bills will put "strain" on their finances in 2012.

Big Energy Week, organised by Citizens Advice, aims to show billpayers there are myriad ways to manage your fuel costs - whether it's switching energy supplier to get a better deal, installing insulation, cutting down on usage or getting providers to set reasonable repayment terms for bills.

Throughout this week, a series of events and roadshows are taking place throughout the UK - with Government Energy Minister Chris Huhne set to appear at one event in London, and representatives from energy firms, price comparison sites and Citizens Advice also due to attend roadshows around the country.

The underlying premise of Big Energy Week is simple: empowering consumers to ensure they are not overpaying for, or struggling with, their fuel bills.

Energy bill costs are up 21% on November 2010, and 5.5 million UK households are now classified as being in "fuel poverty". Citizens Advice helped 96,000 people with fuel debt problems in 2011 alone.

Despite this bleak picture, the average customer could save £200 just by switching energy suppliers - but many billpayers aren't taking the opportunity to compare gas and electricity prices to find the best deals for them.

Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy, explained: "We know hikes in prices have put extra pressure on people's budgets at a time when money is already tight.

"We're worried that some people are struggling unnecessarily because they're not on the best deal, live in homes that haemorrhage heat or are not getting all of the financial help available to them."

MP Chris Huhne, energy and climate change secretary, added: "We know that a lot of households are struggling to cope with rising energy costs. We want to get the advice and information out to as many consumers across the country as possible."

Big Energy Week is encouraging consumers to take steps to reduce their energy costs. Suggested steps include:

  • Contacting suppliers to check your tariff and payment method. Paying by Direct Debit could save you £100 a year.
  • Compare gas and electricity prices on a comparison website. You could save up to £200 just by switching energy supplier.
  • Insulate your walls and loft and save an average of £120 a year. All energy suppliers will give away free or discounted insulation. Check if you are eligible.
  • Turning down the thermostat by one degree could save £60 a year. Using less energy round the house will add to the savings.
  • If you're struggling to pay an energy bill, contact your supplier. They are obliged to help you manage your bills in a way you can afford.

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