October 2022 Price cap announcement, what to keep in mind:

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  • On Friday 26 August, Ofgem's October price cap was announced: with the maximum for an average home rising to £3,549
  • Some government support exists — details below — but more is needed. We are calling for a freeze on prices.
  • Putin's invasion of Ukraine has sent global gas prices eight times higher than normal
  • We don't profit from this crisis: fossil fuel extractors do. We have never made a profit and will not do this year.
  • We'll do everything we can to protect customers — if you're struggling, let us know.

Update: this blog is now out of date

The Government have now announced their 2 year Energy Price Guarantee, essentially functioning as a discount on the price cap - dropping average annual bills from the expected £3,549 to £2,500. To read more about the Energy Price Guarantee, and how it fits in with the Energy Price Cap, visit this dedicated blog.

The official level for October's energy price cap has been confirmed at £3,549 for the average home – a further huge rise on already high prices.

I've written this to share what I know, including notes on Government support and everything we're doing to help people prepare for it as best we can.

Make no mistake, this is a fossil fuel crisis. As a direct result of Putin's invasion of Ukraine, global gas prices are astronomical — currently around eight times higher than usual. And because of the way the UK's energy system works, the price of electricity (even renewable electricity) is largely set by the price of gas. I've spoken more about this here. This needs to change — a review is underway, but it won't change things quickly enough to address the crisis.

Gas prices have been like this for almost a year now, but as the energy price cap is based on past wholesale costs, the worst of these rises have not yet passed on to customers.

It is October when this impact will truly hit bills.

Our team help around 30,000 customers a day and we know what this will mean. There is some government support, especially for those who need it most, but a lot more is needed.

We have spent the last year working with other companies and experts to bring ideas to the regulator and government which we hope they will implement. But time is running out and until we hear what the government might do, we want to help our customers prepare. We've recently updated our online Balance Forecast tool with “Crystal Ball mode”. This shows customers on our Flexible Octopus tariff the impact of likely price changes and factors in the government rebates already announced. While it can't be fully accurate, it should hopefully provide some perspective.

To date, Octopus have absorbed over £150m of increases, to keep our costs lower for existing customers, but we simply can't absorb it all. Putting it in perspective — in a normal year, we'd usually pay £1.5bn for the fuel we supply to customers. This year it's more like £9bn. There's more about this below — but to be clear, we have never made a profit and won't do this year.

No energy supplier can solve this problem — this isn't an industry issue, it's a consequence of war. This is why we've been calling on government help for all customers, regardless of who their supplier is.

October's Price Cap in context and Government support currently available

  • The price cap is £3,549 for a typical home. This is 80% higher than the same time last year and well over twice what it was last winter. Details about the price cap here.
  • In May the government announced £400 support per household, which will reduce the impact of the October rise to about 50% more than current prices. This will take the form of an automatic monthly credit of £66 or £67 between October and March for all electricity customers, and where appropriate, an automatic reduction in your monthly payments. You don't need to apply for this and we will pass it on automatically — we'll also provide a way for anyone who wants to donate their credits to those who need it more to do so.
  • Many low-income households received £326 directly to their bank accounts (usually marked "DWP Cost of Living") in July, with a second payment of £324 due in the autumn.
  • Those on tax credits will also receive £650, but have to wait until autumn for their first payment of £326, followed by a second payment in winter
  • Anyone receiving disability benefits will automatically receive £150 in September — this will be in addition to the £650 payment where relevant.
  • Those on a pension will receive an additional £300 winter fuel payment

We speak to 140,000 customers each week — more than we ever have — and know first hand the stress and worry this is already causing, and how many people face genuine difficulties in paying this winter.

We'll keep doing everything we can to help.

We've increased our Octopus Assist fund from £7m to £15m and are helping those who need it most in a number of ways including:

  • Direct financial assistance
  • Payment plans
  • Free electric blankets over Winter (using electric blankets to stay snug on your sofa can save £400 on your energy bill).
  • Loaning thermal cameras to spot heat loss around the home

To help everyone find simple ways to save by using less energy:

  • Our Winter Workout is coming back in 2022. This gas-saving initiative helped hundreds of thousands of customers cut their gas bills by 12% on average last Winter — collectively, their energy savings would reduce bills by about £10m over just 12 weeks.
  • Smart energy savings are on the way, where you could be paid to use less electricity at certain times. We'll share more detail about these soon. If you're interested, you'll need a smart meter — join the list to get one here.
  • Our simple energy saving tips could help a typical household save £400

If you do one thing, please, please check your boiler flow temperature (tip number 1). It's easier than it sounds — takes less than a minute — and could save you hundreds of pounds without affecting your comfort at all. It helped our customer Abigail cut her gas use by 16%.

But it's clear, given the scale of the problem, that only the government can provide sufficient help to make a big enough difference. In effect, Putin has weaponised energy — and it's right that the government helps with this. We do expect more support and will continue to put ideas to the government. For some of our thoughts, read the questions at the end of this email.

Unless the government intervenes, here's the expected events for the coming weeks:

  • Sep 6th: New Prime Minister takes office
  • Sep 13th: Octopus starts sending personalised messages with your tariff and estimated details (this will take several days)
  • Sep 17th: Octopus starts updating direct debit (these will be delivered to those affected over time, based on account status and usually you can adjust them if you think we are wrong)
  • September 30th - October 6th: You can send us a meter reading at any time — if you'd like to submit one for the changing prices you can do that right up until October 6th. Online is bestyou can do it online in seconds.
  • October 1st: New price cap comes into effect

If you are having difficulty paying, head to this page to find out about the support available and how to access it. You're always welcome to contact us, but we will be busy — very busy. We don't use error-prone “voice recognition”, endless “push button menu” systems or frustrating chatbots. Whether you email or call, you'll deal with real people who're here to help and experiencing the same difficulties as everyone else.

During these times our team will be stretched — even though we've recruited and trained many new team members — so remember you can update your payments, see your bills, take a look at your balance forecast, or move house all from your online account, and doing so will free up our team to help those who need it most.

This is not the sort of information anyone welcomes, but I hope it is helpful. Thank you for your time — if you have a moment, I'd appreciate your thoughts on this update and the crisis — this simplest way is via this very quick survey.

Finally, a word about our team. It's not easy being on either end of calls at the moment, and I'd like to say thank you to the vast, vast majority of customers who have been so thoughtful and have shown such understanding to our team during these times. It makes a huge difference and lets us employ people who really care — thank you.

What's caused this?

After the lockdowns around the world, global supply chains suffered from shortages, pushing prices up. But Putin's invasion of Ukraine sent gas prices skyrocketing to unprecedented levels and they've only got worse.

Where's the money going?

Put simply, oil and gas extractors. Whilst the cost of extracting gas hasn't increased, the global shortages have increased prices from 60p/therm to £4.80/ therm. To put it in perspective - the UK usually spends £11bn buying the gas to deliver to homes, and to generate electricity for them. This year that's more like £51bn.

Why is renewable electricity more expensive?

The UK has a single wholesale price for electricity — whether renewable or not. Indeed, renewable electricity costs more because we need to pay for certificates on top of the wholesale price. This is bonkers and we have frequently called for reform. This may happen but not in time for this year.

Is Octopus making a profit on this?

No. We've never made a profit, nor paid our shareholders a dividend, and won't do this year. Instead, we have put everything into helping customers.

For perspective, we'd usually pay £1.5b to buy all our customers' energy for a year. This year it'll be more like £9b.

What could the government do?

We were pleased when the government announced its existing support package in May, but since then prices have escalated and that means the package is hundreds of pounds less effective than it was originally intended to be. And with January prices likely to be dramatically higher still, it's clear that the existing support package is not enough.

Whilst there are many ideas, Octopus agrees with other energy companies that the best plan is to freeze the price around the existing cap level. This would be paid for by an industry-wide fund. We'll blog details shortly, but in short — while wholesale prices are higher, companies use the fund to deliver the price freeze and when wholesale prices drop, companies pay back into the fund. This would see prices at current levels for 2-4 years, and then fall over the next decade - especially as cheap renewables come online and market reform passes the savings to customers. Crucially, it would also reduce inflation by about 3.5%, helping reduce other costs across the economy.

Surely the government can't support energy bills forever?

Absolutely right. The markets expect global gas prices to come back down in two-ish years, or sooner if the war in Ukraine resolves. This is because right now, gas storage is being increased and supply chains are being built and re-routed globally so that the UK and Europe get more reliable and resilient access to gas.

At the same time, renewable projects are being accelerated in the UK and across Europe, and electricity markets will be reformed to help bring electricity prices down via cheaper renewables. The long-term thinking in the plans we propose helps absorb the volatile and high market prices in the short term and then bring prices down as gas and electricity markets improve. We don't need magic money, we need shock absorbers and market reform.

Are prices going up more in the UK than in Europe?

Wholesale prices are very similar across Europe but government response varies by country.

This very clear Reuters article is a good summary of the differences in government actions by country.

Is there hope?

Yes. The price freeze proposal would stabilise prices whilst we get long-term solutions in place. And then prices will drift down to not much more than half current levels over the next decade. We will continue to work extremely hard with the rest of the industry, government and other organisation to try to make this - or alternative solutions - a reality.

Published on 6th September 2022 by:

image of Greg Jackson

Greg Jackson

Founder

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!

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