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Cost of living: dealing with high gas and electricity bills (Scotland)

Contact your energy supplier

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills or you have already fallen behind with payments, get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible. Your supplier has a range of options to help you. The support they may be able to offer you will depend on your situation. Examples of help include:

  • a short-term payment break or a reduction in your payments;
  • advice on accessing financial support that may be available, like benefits you may be entitled to or grants that could pay towards energy debt; and
  • energy efficiency advice.

If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your supplier to explain how your direct debit payment has been worked out. Your supplier may be able to reduce the direct debit if:

  • it is currently based on an overestimate of how much energy you use in a year (see Taking meter readings below); or
  • it includes an amount to repay a debt to your supplier.

If you are in arrears, your supplier should work with you to set up a repayment plan that is affordable to you. For more information, see our Gas and electricity arrears fact sheet.

Taking meter readings

If your bill is based on estimated readings, your supplier could be charging you too much if their estimate is higher than your actual usage. Keep your energy bills as accurate as possible by regularly taking meter readings and sending them to your supplier. If your bill is based on an estimated reading that is too low, providing a meter reading will increase your bill.

If you have been paying for more energy than you have used, your energy account may be in credit. You can ask your supplier for a partial or full refund if you are in credit, but you should consider whether reducing the credit balance will make it difficult to pay your energy bills in colder months. If your supplier refuses to give you a refund, they must explain why they think it is reasonable to hold onto the credit.

For information on how to read your meter, see the Citizens Advice webpage How to read your gas or electricity meter.

If you are not able to physically take a meter reading, your supplier may be able to offer you extra help. See the Priority services register information in our Gas and electricity arrears fact sheet.

Smart meters

Smart meters are a newer type of gas and electricity meter that can send automatic meter readings to your supplier. Bills can be more accurate if you have a smart meter because automatic meter readings mean that your supplier does not have to estimate how much energy you have used.

Smart meters also come with an in-home display, which is a device that shows you how much energy you are using and how much it is costing you in pounds and pence. The information from an in-home display may also help you to identify how you can reduce your energy usage to save money.

Over the next few years, suppliers will have to offer a free smart meter to all of their customers. If you do not have a smart meter already, you can contact your supplier to ask if they will install one for you now.

The Smart Energy GB website has more information about smart meters and their benefits.

Smart meters if you rent your home

You can choose to have a smart meter if you are named on the bill. However, you should check your tenancy agreement to see if there are any rules about the type of meter that can be installed in the property. You may need your landlord’s permission before having a smart meter installed.

If you already have a smart meter

Some smart meters have temporarily stopped working in ‘smart mode’. This means that they are not sending automatic meter readings to suppliers.

If you have a smart meter, use the Citizens Advice smart meter check tool to see if your meter is working in ‘smart mode’. If it isn’t, you should send regular meter readings to your supplier to make sure that you are billed accurately while your meter is not working in smart mode.

Prepayment meters

You should speak to your supplier if you have a prepayment meter and your credit is running low or has run out.

Your supplier may be able to offer you a fuel voucher. A fuel voucher is a code that can be used to add credit to your gas or electricity prepayment meter. Fuel vouchers can usually be redeemed at Post Offices and outlets with PayPoint or Payzone services. You will not have to repay any credit you get through a fuel voucher.

When you speak to your supplier, let them know if you are in financial difficulty and explain if there is anything about your circumstances that makes you vulnerable. There are a wide range of reasons you could be in a vulnerable situation, for example, having a low income, living with a physical or mental health issue or living in a cold energy-inefficient home. Your supplier may offer you an additional support credit to help keep you on supply.

Most prepayment meters also have functions built in to provide:

  • emergency credit, which provides a small amount of credit in emergency situations where you cannot top up your meter; and
  • friendly-hours credit, which allows you to access a small amount of credit at times when top-up points are likely to be closed (this is usually evenings, weekends and bank holidays).

If you do not know how to access the emergency or friendly-hours credit functions, contact your supplier.

You will have to repay any additional support, emergency or friendly-hours credit that you are given. Discuss with your supplier how the credit will be repaid. Your supplier must consider your ability to pay when agreeing a repayment plan with you. For more information, see our Gas and electricity arrears fact sheet.

Help with the cost of energy

Home Heating Support Fund

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, this fund may be able to help you by making a payment to your energy supplier. The fund can also help if you are ‘self-rationing’, which means you are limiting the energy you use so that you have enough money for other goods or services.

consumeradvice.scot can help make an application to the fund on your behalf. Contact them on 0808 800 9060 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).

For more information, see www.homeheatingadvice.scot.

Warm Home Discount

The Warm Home Discount is an automatic one-off payment of £150 to reduce winter energy bills. Licensed electricity suppliers must take part in the scheme if they have at least 1,000 customers. To qualify for the discount, you will need to meet the criteria for either a ‘core group’ or a ‘broader group’.

Core group

You should automatically receive this discount by 31 March 2024 if your supplier takes part in the scheme and on 13 August 2023:

  • you or your partner were named on the energy bill; and
  • you were getting the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit.

If you think you are eligible under the core group but you have not yet received a letter confirming this, contact the Warm Home Discount Scheme helpline on 0800 030 9322.

Broader group

The Warm Home Discount may also be available to you if you are on a low income or if you get certain benefits. Each electricity supplier participating in the Warm Home Discount Scheme decides the eligibility criteria for the broader group and you have to apply for the discount if you meet the criteria.

Check with your supplier if you are eligible under their broader group criteria. If you are eligible, ask them how to apply for the discount. The discount is provided on a first-come first-served basis, so you should apply as soon as possible.

For more information on the Warm Home Discount Scheme, see GOV.UK.

Winter Fuel Payment

The Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off, tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 that is made during the winter to help with heating costs if you are eligible for the payment. For winter 2023-24, this payment will be topped up with a Pensioner Cost of Living Payment of between £150 to £300.

You may be eligible for the payment if you were born on or before 24 September 1957.

The payment is normally made in November or December. It is usually paid automatically to anyone who is eligible, but in some circumstances you may have to apply for the payment.

For more information, see GOV.UK.

Winter Heating Payment

You may be eligible for a Winter Heating Payment of £55.05 if you were entitled to one of the following benefits on at least one day between 6 November 2023 to 12 November 2023.

  • Universal Credit.
  • Pension Credit.
  • Income Support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Support for Mortgage Interest.

If you were entitled to a benefit other than Pension Credit, you will also need to meet further conditions to be eligible. For further information and full eligibility criteria, see mygov.scot.

The Winter Heating Payment is usually paid automatically. If you think you are eligible for a payment but have not yet received it, tell Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).

Smart meter discount schemes

If you have a smart meter, your supplier may run a discount scheme under National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Service. If your supplier has a discount scheme, you may be able to receive discounts for reducing your electricity usage at selected peak times during the period 1 November 2023 to 31 March 2024. Suppliers will set the times that usage will need to be reduced and they will provide 24 hours’ notice of each session where you may voluntarily reduce your electricity usage to qualify for a discount.

Contact your supplier or check their website for information on whether they are running a discount scheme, how to sign up to it and how discounts will be provided.

Warm banks

The cost-of-living crisis is making it difficult for many people to cover all of their essential costs, such as keeping their home warm and buying food. If you are struggling, using a warm bank may help you to free up some money.

  • Warm banks are safe places provided by some councils and charitable organisations where you can spend time to keep warm without having to worry about paying the heating bill.
  • Warm banks can be found in different places, such as libraries, community centres and places of worship.
  • While warm banks offer somewhere to keep warm, some may offer additional support like a warm meal or advice.

The warmspaces.org website allows you to search for places near you where you can keep warm. Not all warm banks will be registered on this site, so you could also try searching on the internet using terms like ‘warm bank’ and ‘warm space’.

Trust funds and charities

You may be able to get a grant from a charitable fund to pay off energy debts. You can ask your supplier if they have any funds or schemes that can help you, or you can contact us for advice.

There may be other charities that can help you with your energy bills. Turn2us can try to find charities that may be able to help you. You can do a search on the Turn2us website for a grant.

Government support schemes have ended

The government ran several schemes to help support households with the rising costs of energy. The support included limits on what you could be charged per unit of gas or electricity and a £400 discount on the energy bills of every household with an electricity connection.

As the support from government support schemes has ended, you may find that your bills have increased even though your usage has stayed the same.

For more information on the support that was provided, see GOV.UK.

If you pay energy costs to a landlord, they had to consider passing the support on to you. Your landlord had to notify you of their decision on how much they would pass on, even if they decided it was not appropriate to pass on any support. Contact us for advice if you feel your landlord has not passed on the right amount of benefit from a government support scheme. You can also find more information on landlords’ obligations on GOV.UK.

Energy efficiency

Free energy saving advice

The Home Energy Scotland website provides free, impartial, expert advice, including information on grants and loans available to make energy efficient home improvements. For example, there may be schemes which can provide you with free installation of energy efficiency measures in your home. The website also has a funding finder tool that you can use to search for schemes that may be able to help.

You can call Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 5pm).

The Ofgem website and GOV.UK website provide free, impartial information and guidance on how to save energy. The tips given on the websites are broken down into quick and free actions you can take to reduce your energy use and home improvements that can save money in the long term.

Checking your boiler settings

If you have a combi-boiler, see Nesta’s Money Saving Boiler Challenge for information on how you may be able to save money on your gas bills. The website provides a step-by-step guide on identifying whether changing the ‘flow temperature’ setting on your boiler may save you some money and gives instructions on how to change the setting.

Ten top tips for saving energy

Take a look at the Energy Saving Trust’s top ten tips for saving energy to see if you can do anything else to lower your bills.