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Coronavirus—The Bad News for the Energy Sector

The energy industry continues to be one of the sectors majorly affected by the coronavirus pandemic amid the sweeping measures imposed by the government that shut down a significant portion of the economy.

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UK suppliers are now coordinating with the government to provide aid to households and businesses straining to pay their dues in this time of crisis. Energy companies are seeking additional financial support from the government to protect vulnerable consumers over the next few months.

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Meanwhile, industry experts believe energy assessors and surveyors are at risk for significant exposure to the virus due to their type of work. Consequently, they are also at risk of passing COVID-19 to someone else.

Seeking government aid

The energy sector, represented by industry body Energy UK, has held talks with the UK government regarding rolling financial assistance to vulnerable customers who might need help over the coming months.

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The Financial Times reported energy firms seeking a ÂŁ100 million per month loan facility from the government so they can grant payment holidays for customers under significant financial pressure in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Suppliers have reported that a rising number of consumers have cancelled payments, which could consequently put the firms in monetary trouble over time. Profits could shrink lower as Ofgem reduces the price cap by ÂŁ17 for some 11 million customers. The current price cap for April to September 2020 is at ÂŁ1,162 from ÂŁ1,179 previously.

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Many large UK energy suppliers have witnessed a decline in profits since the Ofgem set a price cap on the commonly used tariffs. Some smaller providers have shut down, with over nineteen of them going bust since 2016. The recent turn of events could further decline revenue for many energy providers.

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A UK Energy spokesperson said they are leading discussions on behalf of the energy sector to determine what financial aid could be needed to assist vulnerable businesses and households.

Emergency measures

The government announced earlier that it was imposing emergency measures that help around four million prepayment meter (PPM) customers who are struggling to top-up credit. However, the Energy UK maintained that the directive was not enough.

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PPM customers can contact their supplier to determine what option will work best to keep them supplied during this crisis. Additionally, consumers in significant financial distress can also avail of support from their energy provider. Help could be in the form of debt repayments, reduction, or reassessment of bill payments. They may also put the bill payment on pause as necessary.

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The Energy UK spokesperson expressed the body’s belief that more consumers than usual would be struggling to meet deadlines and pay bills for essential services like their energy consumption.

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The UK’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) stated the government is poised to do anything that would support the nation during the coronavirus crisis. A BEIS spokeswoman said the department continues to coordinate with the energy industry to learn about how customers and suppliers could be supported further.

Energy assessors at risk

Meanwhile, DCHI Vice-Chair Ian Stuart suggested that energy surveyors and assessors are significantly at risk of contracting the coronavirus while doing their jobs. DCHI is a non-profit organisation for Energy Assessors, Residential Property Surveyors, and Green Deal Assessors.

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Stuart stated there had been a reduction in the demand for their services that could affect their members’ income. However, their services are still required by some individuals. Assessors and surveyors need to visit properties and go around the buildings to fulfil their duty. Their type of work causes them to be highly exposed and at risk of catching COVID-19.

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Stuart stated there had been a reduction in the demand for their services that could affect their members’ income. However, their services are still required by some individuals. Assessors and surveyors need to visit properties and go around the buildings to fulfil their duty. Their type of work causes them to be highly exposed and at risk of catching COVID-19.

Consequently, it also heightens the probability of the assessors and surveyors to pass on the virus to another person.
This suggestion is just one of the similar situations that different sectors face amid the coronavirus outbreak, with government officials and law enforcers struggling to find the reconciliation between public safety and economic interests.