OVO offers £50m financial support package to customers impacted by coronavirus

The UK's largest independent energy supplier, OVO Energy, has unveiled a £50m "hardship" fund to assist customers that are struggling financially due to impacts of the coronavirus, as the wider energy industry works on a long-term plan to support customers during the period of disruption.

OVO offers £50m financial support package to customers impacted by coronavirus

Eligible customers will be able to receive support from Wednesday 8 April 2020

The OVO Coronavirus Hardship Scheme will allocate £50m worth of measures to existing OVO customers that have been financially impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak. The energy company has confirmed that customers most in need of financial support can contact OVO customer services directly to either top-up credit or agree to temporary payment reductions to monthly payments. Successful applicants will have support available for up to three months.

Eligible customers will be able to receive support from Wednesday 8 April 2020.

OVO’s chief executive Stephen Fitzpatrick said: “Now, in addition to the health impacts of coronavirus, financial hardship for many of our customers is setting in. This hardship scheme will provide some immediate support for those most impacted by coronavirus.

“OVO is also working with other energy companies and Ofgem to develop a sustainable long-term position for all customers. This plan will take some time to put into action. In the meantime, we are doing what we can to give reassurance and support to our customers. It is essential we find a way to keep the lights on in every home in Britain in the coming months.”

Energy suppliers and Ofgem are currently working on a long-term solution to support customers from suppliers across the industry who are experiencing financial hardship. However, the finalisation of that solution may take some time, and OVO is taking proactive steps to assist its customers.

OVO itself has been impacted by the coronavirus. Ovo Energy last week furloughed 3,400 staff due to the pandemic. The company said the limitations on working for some staff had impacted certain job requirements, such as smart meter installations or meter readings.

More broadly, the company has acquired SSE’s retail arm and launched ‘Plan Zero’; aiming to achieve zero-carbon operations by fitting low-carbon and flexible energy technologies for five million homes and to “fight the climate crisis” – all by 2030.

A new advertising campaign from the firm highlights that if all UK households implemented solutions to make their homes zero carbon, the UK’s total carbon emissions would be reduced by 22%.

Low electricity consumption

Despite more domestic energy consumption due to people working from home because of the coronavirus, the UK’s electricity demand has actually fallen by more than 10%, according to analysts at Cornwall Insight.

As such, some households are being incentivised to use electricity during the day. On Sunday morning, for example, fossil fuels accounted for less than 15% of electricity sent to the grid, with renewable electricity from wind and solar accounting for almost 60%. But due to low electricity demand due to temporary business closure, some households have been asked to purchase this clean energy at low market prices.

The negative electricity prices are commonly available domestically for overnight markets, when demand is typically at its lowest. But households using the Agile Octopus energy tariff, offered by Octopus Energy, were paid over the weekend for the electricity they consumed in the afternoons.

Matt Mace

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