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Energy at home

Switching your energy supplier

Benefits

  • make the move to greener energy
  • lower your energy bills
  • make your energy provider work for you

An Ofgem survey found that 53% of people said they found energy tariffs confusing. In this guide, we look at different energy tariffs, what you need to do to switch supplier and how to ensure your energy is sustainable.

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

Once a year, your energy supplier should tell you which tariff is cheapest for you.

Increasingly, many energy suppliers will offer one or more green tariffs, which promise to supply you with energy from renewable sources. But some are better than others, as we explain below.

Types of tariffs

Choosing a green energy tariff

With electricity from low carbon sources making up an ever larger percentage of our national grid, we are all likely to be using some sustainably generated electricity, whatever tariff we’re on. So what is the benefit of a green tariff in particular?

Choosing a green tariff shows the demand is there. It sends a message to your supplier and the wider industry that you wish to avoid electricity generated from fossil fuels and support renewable energy generation. The increasing numbers of green tariffs available shows the industry is listening. This is a valuable contribution, whichever green tariff you choose.

A green tariff means that some or all of the electricity you buy is ‘matched’ by purchases of renewable energy that your energy supplier makes on your behalf. These 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.

Your supplier should let you know what sources are included in the mix, and also what proportion of your supply is renewable. Some tariffs will be ‘100% renewable’, others will offer a percentage of the total.

Green and not so green tariffs

The greenest tariffs

When your energy supplier buys renewable (green) electricity and its accompanying certificates directly from generators, such as UK wind or solar farms, this provides a clear benefit to the UK renewable industry. Most energy suppliers that work this way will be transparent about the source of their electricity and list it on their website.

We’ve identified the following suppliers who all clearly list the renewable sources of their energy on their websites. We think these tariffs are as green as they get. Other suppliers may meet the same standard of sourcing direct from UK renewable energy generators but we couldn’t identify this from their websites at the time of our investigation.

We last checked in February 2020.

Moderately green tariffs

Some larger electricity suppliers will own or have partnerships with a mixture of green (renewable) and brown (regular fossil fuel) generators. Their standard tariff will provide electricity from a mix of sources, while the green tariff will be backed up by the REGOs from their low carbon electricity sources.

That is fine as far as it goes but growing numbers of people on their green tariff won’t necessarily mean electricity suppliers buy more renewable energy. Instead, they can just divert a higher percentage of the green energy they source to the green tariff and make their standard tariffs dirtier. So increased demand for these tariffs doesn’t necessarily lead to increased support for renewable generation.

Greenwash

Some electricity suppliers, including some who claim to supply 100% renewable energy, will do so simply by buying up excess REGO certificates. These certificates are cheaply available from times of excess production across the EU and these tariffs do little to encourage the generation of renewable energy in the UK.

Other ways to support renewable energy

A green fund usually involves paying a premium to contribute to a fund that will be used to support new renewable energy developments. Under this option, the existing electricity supply continues as normal, but your involvement could help to alter the mix of energy sources in the future toward renewable sources (depending on the type of tariff).

The new generation projects supported will probably also receive support under existing government support schemes.

How to switch energy supplier

If you’re looking to switch energy supplier, there are many energy comparison websites available. We recommend using the Citizen Advice Bureau’s Comparison Tool to find the best energy deal.

If you don’t have internet access, you can phone the Citizens Advice Bureau on 03454 040506, and they will send you a factsheet with the deals available in your area.

To make sure you get the best deal, you’ll need to have the following information to hand:

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

Do I have to pay to leave my current provider?

Some fixed tariffs do have an exit fee – but you are still free to leave at any time.

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

How to reduce your bills without switching provider

01

Change the way you pay your bill

Most energy providers offer a discount for paying your bill by direct debit rather than with cash or cheque. On average you can save £100 a year by paying your bill with a monthly direct debit.

02

Receive bills online

You may also get a discount for receiving bills online. As this saves on paper, this is a better choice for the environment too. You will receive a notification by text or email when your bill is ready to view.

03

Speak to your energy provider

Get in touch with your energy provider to see if there is anything they can do to help reduce your bills. They may be able to move you to a cheaper tariff or advise you of any help or benefits you can claim to make paying your bills more manageable.

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

04

Reduce the energy that you 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. Our website has plenty of advice and tips on how you can reduce energy use.

Support with paying your energy bills

There are some benefits you can claim to help save money on your fuel bills. These include:

Winter fuel payment: You may be eligible for between £100 and £300 tax-free to help pay your heating bills if you were born on or before 5 May 1953. More information about the winter fuel payment is available on the gov.uk website.

Cold weather payment: Some people who receive benefits can get a cold weather payment of £25 if the temperature drops below freezing in their local area for seven days in a row. You don’t need to apply – if you are eligible it will be paid automatically in the same way that you receive your benefits.

Price cap protection

In January 2019, Ofgem introduced a price cap to regulate the maximum amount energy suppliers could charge for supplying gas and electricity. Although the price cap does not offer lower tariffs, it protects energy suppliers charging excessive amounts.

The cap is reviewed twice a year in April and October and is currently £1,254 a year for a typical dual fuel customer paying by direct debit.

More information about the current price cap levels.

Last updated: June 24th, 2021