British Gas has announced an increase in its support for businesses with a £15 million fund which provides grants to small firms such as pubs, cafes, restaurants, hairdressers, shopkeepers, and charities, struggling with energy costs.
It has already given £7 million in support to more than 4,000 business with average grants of £1,700. Most have gone to high street sole traders.
Many businesses are facing increased cost pressures as they find they are currently in contracts set when wholesale costs were at a peak whilst now receiving less Government support under the new Energy Bill Discount Scheme than under the previous scheme.
In addition to grants, British Gas will be offering some businesses the opportunity to extend their existing contract term by 12 months in order to significantly lower their current rates. These “blend-and-extend” contracts would give businesses who are on higher rates the option of spreading costs over a longer period.
British Gas says it will contact eligible businesses in the coming months and don’t need to do anything to apply.
The energy provider already has a £50m support package in place and has been providing grants up to £1,500 to residential customers in need since the start of the energy crisis.
Allowing small businesses to come out from the energy contracts they fixed during market peak last year is vital to their survival
Chris O’Shea, Chief Executive of parent company Centrica, said: “We know these businesses are struggling right now and need support beyond just energy costs so we all have to do our bit. We hope that by continuing to provide grants and by introducing more affordable contract rates, we can ease the pressure.
“We’ve already done far more than any other supplier to help consumers through the energy crisis with cash grants, and we are constantly reviewing our support to make sure it’s getting to where it’s needed most. “
Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, which campaigned for blend-and-extend, said: “Allowing small businesses to come out from the energy contracts they fixed during market peak last year is vital to their survival.
“British Gas is doing the right thing to adopt our call. We hope this is made available to all small business customers who are trapped in fixed tariffs from last year’s peak period. Now is the time for other energy suppliers to follow suit.”