Lacking the skills to pay the bills

Leaders in the education sector admit they are baffled by utility statements, says consultancy’s new research

Data released by energy and water consultancy Utilitywise shows that more than 1 in 10 of those working in education providers admit that they don’t understand their commercial energy bill. Sixty-five percent of those working for education organisations were unable to identify that E or A readings mean estimated or actual, whilst almost a quarter (24 percent) did not understand the term unit rate.

The issue is not confined to micro and small businesses or organisations of 1 to 49 employees; almost the same number (1 in 6) of those employing 50 to 249 staff reported that they too don’t have the skills they need to make sense of their regular statements. Those with the biggest issues included business people in Sheffield (60 percent) and Liverpool (40 percent) who said they didn’t understand the information provided on utility bills, and businesses in the manufacturing sector where a third (33 percent) confessed their ignorance.

The data also reveals that as many as 2.19 million businesses never or only occasionally check their energy bills. This is despite the fact that almost two thirds (65 percent) of SMEs in the education sector believe they pay too much for their utilities. Whilst 11 percent of business decision makers in education providers or suppliers cite lack of time for the reason they don’t double check the bill is correct, a further 11 percent simply trust that the total is likely to be accurate. Yet Utilitywise’s own information shows over 60 percent of businesses are reliant on estimated bills.

With 51 percent of small education businesses or establishments believing that energy prices will go up in the next year Utilitywise is committing resources to help those in the sector get the information they need to make sense of their bills and the energy market.

Andrew Richardson, deputy CEO of Utilitywise, said: “Businesses and education providers need help to navigate the energy market. That starts with understanding your statements. The terminology can be confusing, but it’s important to get a handle on it because it impacts a business’ bottom line: if you don’t know that you’re paying an estimated bill you can be in for a nasty surprise. With more than 22,000 business customers, including schools and universities, the team at Utilitywise believes passionately in making the energy sector easier to do business with. It shouldn’t be complicated, confusing or opaque. Instead, we strive to take the hassle out of managing your energy, and the first place to start is by making bills less baffling. 

“That’s why we’re determined to help all businesses and education providers to get the skills they need to pay the bills. It’s why we’ve set out all the information businesses need to better understand their utility statements in our Utilitywise guide, and why we’re hosting tweet chats to answer common questions.”

Utilitywise’s advice for businesses includes: 

• making sure you are up to speed with what all the terms and jargon on each utility bills means
• checking the actual meter readings with the bills you receive
• understanding your energy consumption across the business and this as a percentage overhead
• checking bills month-by-month for trends, administration errors and to manage effectively
• working with experts to help you manage your utility bills more efficiently 

A Utilitywise guide is available online via its website.

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