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Energy at home

How to switch energy supplier

With more energy suppliers offering a better range of tariffs for customers, it’s worth exploring your options to see if there’s a better energy deal available for you.

Most suppliers offer up to four tariffs for gas and four for electricity. Many also offer discounts for managing your account online or choosing a ‘dual fuel’ deal. 

An increasing number of energy suppliers are offering green tariffs, which claim to supply you with energy from renewable energy made from sources like wind and solar. But some green tariffs are better than others. 

Keep reading to understand: 

  • the energy switching process
  • the different types of tariff 
  • how to spot good green energy tariffs

How to switch energy supplier

If you’re looking to switch energy supplier, there are many energy comparison websites available.  Make sure you compare a few quotes, but don’t just focus on price. 

For example, Citizens Advice has a guide where you can compare energy suppliers’ customer service. There are ranking tables available for England, Scotland and Wales. There’s currently no equivalent in Northern Ireland. 

To make sure you get the best deal, have the following information ready: 

  • The name of your current supplier. 
  • The name of your current tariff (this will be on a recent energy bill). 
  • The amount of energy you use.
  • How you currently pay your energy bill, and how you’d like to pay in future with a new supplier. 
  • Your postcode. 

Do I have to pay to leave my current provider?

If you’re on a fixed tariff, you usually have to pay an exit fee, although you’re still free to leave at any time. This varies depending on the supplier, so check the contract for your tariff to find out what this is. 

If you’re on a standard variable rate (SVR) tariff, there are no exit fees. 

If you’re within the initial 14-day cooling off period with your supplier, you can leave without paying a fee. This period starts the day after you set up a contract with the new supplier. 

What are the different types of energy tariff?

Choosing a green energy tariff

Choosing a green tariff shows the demand is there for greener electricity. It sends a message to your supplier and the wider industry that you want to avoid electricity generated from fossil fuels and support renewable energy generation. 

The increasing numbers of green tariffs available shows the industry is listening.  

It’s also possible that choosing the right green tariff could help encourage the construction of future renewable generation projects. However, it’s not certain whether this is really happening or not, and some green tariffs are clearly having little or no impact. 

How green is a green tariff?

Most green tariffs claim that some or all the electricity you buy is ‘matched’ by renewable energy that your energy supplier buys on your behalf. 

This could come from a variety of renewable energy sources such as wind farms and hydroelectric power stations. Some green supply tariffs are also nuclear-free. 

Some suppliers continue to buy electricity on the market, but also buy Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs). These are intended to prove that an equivalent amount of renewable electricity was produced somewhere at some time.  

But it’s become clear that REGOs on their own do nothing to contribute to new renewable generation. This is because it’s possible to buy a lot of cheap REGOs on the open market, produced by existing renewable projects operating at times of low demand. 

If a supplier offers you a green tariff based on REGOs only, there’s little chance of any practical benefit from switching to this tariff.  

How can I find a genuinely green tariff?

When your energy supplier buys renewable electricity directly from generators, there’s a greater chance this will benefit the UK renewable industry. More of what you pay goes directly to renewable generation companies and there’s less chance of it ending up in the pockets of fossil fuel companies. 

Most energy suppliers that work this way will be transparent about the source of their electricity and list it on their website. 

Moderately green tariffs

Some larger electricity suppliers own or have partnerships with a mixture of renewable and fossil fuel generators. Their standard tariff will provide electricity from a mix of sources, while the green tariff will be backed up by REGO certificates. 

That’s fine in itself. But as more people sign up to these green tariffs, the suppliers don’t necessarily need to buy more renewable energy. 

Instead, these companies can just divert more of the renewable energy they source to the green tariff, making their standard tariffs more reliant on fossil fuels. So increased demand for these tariffs is unlikely to have a direct impact on renewable energy generation. 

Green fund tariffs

A green fund usually involves paying a premium to contribute to a fund that’s used to support new renewable energy developments. 

Your electricity supply continues as normal, but your involvement could help alter the mix of energy toward renewable sources (depending on the type of tariff). 

These new generation projects are all commercially viable projects. So, it’s still not clear whether these projects would have gone ahead anyway, even without the support from the green tariff.  

However, these tariffs do have a clear connection between the bills you pay and the development of new low carbon generation. 

How to reduce your bills without switching energy supplier

01

Change the way you pay your bill

Some energy providers offer a discount for paying your bill by direct debit rather than by card. You might also be offered a discount for paying quarterly instead of monthly. 

02

Switch to paperless billing

You may also get a discount for keeping your bills online. As this reduces paper waste, this is a better choice for the environment too. You’ll get a notification by text or email when your bill is ready to view. 

03

Get support from your energy provider

Get in touch with your energy provider to see if there’s anything it can do to help reduce your bills. It may be able to move you to a cheaper tariff. If not, it can advise you of any help or benefits you can claim to make paying your bills more manageable. 

If you’re in debt with your energy supplier, contact them as soon as possible. They’re obliged to help you set regular repayment amounts to cover your energy usage and debt at a level that you can afford. 

04

Reduce your energy use

It’s important to stay warm enough in your home. But being aware of how you use your heating and appliances in your home can help you reduce your bills.

For more information, see our tips on how you can reduce your energy use

Am I protected by the price cap?

The Ofgem energy price cap regulates the maximum amount energy suppliers in England, Wales and Scotland can charge for supplying gas and electricity. Although the price cap doesn’t offer lower tariffs, it protects from energy suppliers charging excessive amounts per unit of energy. 

The cap is reviewed every three months. Between 1 April and 30 June 2024, the price cap will be £1,690 a year for a typical household

The Ofgem energy price cap doesn’t apply to households in Northern Ireland. Instead, there’s a tariff review process that’s overseen by Utility Regulator.  

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Last updated: 23 April 2024