Help with energy costs: what can you do if you can't pay your energy bill?

If you're struggling with rising bills, then there is some help with energy costs that you can tap into

Child playing near radiator
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If you’re one of the millions of households struggling with the latest increase to your energy bill, there is help available. But what can you do if you can't pay your energy bill?

The energy crisis means gas and electricity costs continue to rise and no energy saving tip or additional jumper is going to solve the problem. We have reached a crisis point, a point where the government and energy companies now have to intervene. 

The government introduced a raft of measures, which includes an energy bill and council tax rebate, to take some of the pressure off households with rising energy costs, but it's unlikely to be enough for many

Many of us are going to find ourselves in fuel poverty by the end of the winter, in fact by the time the next price cap is announced in January. 

If you, like many of us, are looking at your energy bills and are simply unable to pay them - there are steps you can take. 

 1. Speak to your energy supplier  

If you do find yourself struggling to pay your energy bills, contact your energy provider and talk to them about a payment plan. 

Ofgem rules mean suppliers must offer payment plans you can afford and you can ask for ‘emergency credit’ if you use a prepayment meter and can’t top up. Most have also signed up to fresh commitments drawn up with Ofgem and the industry trade body Energy UK to support you this winter.

Suppliers must work with you to agree on a payment plan you can afford under Ofgem rules. This includes reviewing a plan you have agreed to before.

You can ask for:

2. Get help with energy costs from your local council

Contact your local council (opens in new tab) to see if you qualify for financial support via their Household Support Fund or welfare assistance schemes. If you are claiming Universal Credit and other benefits you could get extra support on top.

It may be called welfare support funds, emergency support or welfare provision depending on your council, but most have money set aside to distribute to those in need. 

Birmingham council (opens in new tab), for example, gives up to £90 for energy costs and up to £300 for furniture. 

This is a cash grant that you do not have to pay back, but you can only receive it once within a 12-month period.


Several energy suppliers offer hardship funds - and earlier this year some suppliers even increased the amount of money they put into these hardship funds. In some cases they include grants that don’t have to be repaid and debt being written off up to a certain amount. 

In most cases you need to be an existing customer - with the exception of British Gas Energy Trust (opens in new tab) offers help to anyone - you don’t have to be a customer. Firms such as Scottish Power Hardship Fund (opens in new tab),  E.on Energy Fund (opens in new tab) and EDF Energy Customer Support Fund (opens in new tab) offer grants to their customer. 


Being on the Priority Services Register means that energy suppliers have to offer affordable payment plans and can also offer emergency credit if you can’t afford to top up a prepay meter.

Ofgem says you are eligible if you:

  • have reached your state pension age
  • are disabled or have a long-term medical condition
  • are recovering from an injury
  • have a hearing or sight condition
  • have a mental health condition
  • are pregnant or have young children
  • have extra communication needs (for example, if you don’t speak or read English well).
  • You might still be able to register for other reasons if your situation isn’t listed. For example, if you need short-term support after a stay in hospital. 

You can apply by contacting your energy supplier. Give them your contact details and as much information as you can about your needs. 

Your supplier can pass your details to your network operator to add you to their register too. Ofgem recommends doing this, especially if you rely on your energy supply for medical reasons.  If you have a different supplier for your gas and electricity, you need to contact them both.


If you meet the eligibility criteria, the Warm Home Discount scheme can provide a £140 discount on your winter energy bill. 

The one-off grant is paid by your energy supplier if you are on low income, on certain benefits or on pension credit. Providers British Gas, EDF, Scottish Power and Bulb, E.on, E.on Next and So Energy are no longer accepting applicants as the grants are limited each year. 

You will get the discount automatically if you are on pension credit and your supplier goes bust. If you are part of the broader group which is normally eligible for the discount and your supplier goes bust, you may be moved to a new supplier that doesn’t offer the discount. Check with your provider if you can reapply. 

Note that the Warm Home Discount Scheme will be back for the winter of 2022/2023 and applications will re-open in September 2022.

Winter Fuel Payments (opens in new tab) are available if you receive the state pension or get another social security benefit. 

Cold Weather Payments are for people who live in areas where the average temperature in their area is recorded as zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days.

Cost of living payments have been put in place by government with some people eligible for up 10 £1,500 in one-off financial support. Make sure you've got your fair share.

In Scotland, an additional pot of £10m will also be made available to those struggling to pay their fuel bills via the Fuel Insecurity Fund. Details are yet to be announced.

If you work from home, don’t forget the working from home tax relief (opens in new tab) worth up to £280 per person. It takes just a few minutes to claim via the government website - all you need is your government gateway ID. 


Do not cancel your direct debit, or stop paying energy bills. It will not only leave your energy account in debt – a debt which will have to be paid, it can hurt your credit score - making life more expensive whenever you want to borrow money or take out a new phone, broadband or utility contract. 

It can also lead to future utility providers not allowing you to pay your bills by Direct Debit and in the worst case scenario you can end up with a court summons from your energy provider. 

Gary Rycroft, a solicitor, spells out some of the consequences:  “If you are in breach of your contract ultimately they can cut you off. Your credit score will tank and you run the risk of getting a county court judgement (CCJ) which will make life difficult if you are trying to rent, remortgage or take out a credit card or personal loan - we are talking about being affected for months and years down the line.”


Debt advice charity StepChange (opens in new tab) also offers free, impartial guidance. It is worth speaking to someone if you have no way of paying your bills, as they may be able to help come up with repayments plans and speak to your energy supplier for you. 

READ MORE: The Wallace family have cut their energy consumption by 30% with targeted heating, dehumidifiers, logs and a new laundry technique. Plus 17 tips to cut energy costs

Additional reporting by PA

Adam French
Editor, The Money Edit

Adam is the Editor at The Money Edit.
He has been working to save you money as a personal finance and consumer journalist, editor and commentator for several years. His work has appeared in the HuffPost, Which?, i paper and This is Money, plus various TV and radio as a personal finance, consumer rights and scams expert, which include BBC Rip Off Britain, LBC, 5 News, Steph's Packed lunch and Newsround to name a few. He was previously the senior consumer rights editor at Which?.

When Adam isn't working he's watching Norwich City yo-yo between leagues or walking his dog.

With contributions from