Ceredigion Citizens Advice has backed calls from the national charity to ban the forced installation of prepayment meters.
Being able to heat and power your home to safe levels is a necessity, not a luxury. But national Citizens Advice have found that millions of households are living in the cold and dark because they cannot afford to keep their prepayment meter (PPM) topped up.
The issue is also affecting people living in Ceredigion.
Ceredigion Citizens Advice energy lead adviser Will Jones said: "Additional difficulties for consumers in rural areas who may incur additional cost, and inconvenience, having to travel some distance to be able to reach a shop where they can top up their meters, if one is imposed on them. Although suppliers are required to factor vulnerabilities in, often mobility, affordability and rurality issues can be ignored."
One in three (33 per cent) people on PPMs had disconnected at least once in the past year because they could not afford to top up. More than 2 million people are being disconnected at least once a month.
And more than 130,000 households including a disabled person or someone with a long-term health condition (LTHC) are being disconnected from their energy supply at least once a week because they can’t afford to top up. Energy supplier regulations state that people in vulnerable circumstances, including disabled people and people with LTHCs, should not be moved onto PPMs. It simply isn’t safe to do so.
Citizens Advice also found that people are severely rationing their energy use to try and keep costs down. Half (51 per cent) of PPM customers have turned their heating down or off, 27 per cent have cut back on food spending and one in 10 have visited a foodbank.
When a PPM isn’t topped up the household power or gas supply is completely disconnected.
27,500 people came to Citizens Advice for help in 2022 because they could not afford to keep their meter topped up — more than the whole of the last 10 years combined.
Citizens Advice has been raising concerns about the risks of PPMs for years.
Low income households simply cannot afford to heat and power their homes to safe levels. And while energy prices are expected to fall from their current level, they’re forecast to remain significantly higher than they were before the recent spike in prices until the end of the decade.
The charity is calling for a total ban on the forced installation of new PPMs until additional safeguards are put in place to end self-disconnection. They are also calling for a review of all users of prepayment meters, with a commitment to replace them with credit meters where this is necessary to remove the risk of disconnection.