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Tariffs switching and smart meters

Our advice can help you understand energy tariffs, when to switch suppliers, what to do if your energy provider goes bust, as well as the many benefits of smart meters.

With so much information available online when it comes to choosing an energy tariff or switching supplier, we know it can be overwhelming and confusing. The energy crisis and the cost of living situation have compounded this, with many smaller suppliers going bust and bills going up.

We’ve tried to make it as simple as possible in this guide, covering energy tariffs, simple ways to reduce your bills, current advice on switching suppliers, what to do if your supplier goes out of business, and smart meters.

We also have advice on how to understand your energy bill, which can be a good place to start.

Types of energy tariffs

There are four main types of energy tariffs offered by energy suppliers, from fixed rate tariffs to those that support renewable energy.

  • This is often an energy supplier’s default tariff, and it’s the one that’s currently protected by the Energy Price Guarantee. These rates offer flexibility, as you’re not tied into a contract with a fixed end date, and you won’t be charged exit fees if you change supplier.

  • Under fixed rate energy tariffs, you pay a defined amount for each unit of energy until the end date specified on your contract. Fixed rates often last for one year, but you might also find two or even five-year fixed rate tariffs.

  • This type of tariff is where you get gas and electricity from the same supplier. Energy suppliers often offer a reduced rate for dual fuel customers, and it can be easier to deal with just one company for both your gas and electricity.

  • Many suppliers offer green tariffs, which are a way to support renewable energy. If your energy supplier offers a green tariff, it means they either match your usage with renewable energy generation, or they’ll contribute towards an environmental scheme on your behalf.

    However, not all green tariffs are 100% renewable, and some ‘green’ tariffs aren’t green at all. Your energy supplier should be able to tell you what energy sources are included in your energy mix, as well as what percentage of your supply is from renewables.

Simple steps to reduce your bills

Whatever tariff you’re on, there are some quick and simple steps you can take to reduce your bills without switching tariff or supplier:

  • Most suppliers offer a discount for paying by direct debit instead of cash or cheque. You could save around £100 a year by paying your bill by monthly direct debit.

  • You could also get a discount from your supplier for receiving your energy bills online. When your bill is ready to view, you’ll get a notification from your supplier by text or email.

  • If you’re struggling to pay your bills, get in touch with your supplier, as they may be able to move you to a cheaper tariff or advise you of any support available. If you owe your supplier money, contact them as soon as possible – they’re legally required to set you up with a payment plan you can afford.

  • Being aware of how much electricity and heating you’re using can help use less and save on your energy bills. Smart meters can also help with this.

Switching your energy supplier

With the current high cost of energy, it may be best to stick with your current energy supplier as you may not save money by switching to another supplier. There’s also a chance that the supplier you want to switch to is not accepting new customers.

However, you may have the option to change the tariff you’re currently on with your existing supplier. If you’re on a fixed tariff, for example, it might be cheaper to switch to your supplier’s standard variable tariff. This is because the UK Government’s Energy Price Guarantee limits the amount that energy suppliers can charge for each unit of gas and electricity on standard variable tariffs.

Citizens Advice has more information about switching tariffs.

What to do if your energy supplier goes bust

If your energy supplier goes bust, you don’t need to do anything. You’ll still get your gas and electricity in your home as normal. Ofgem, which regulates energy in the UK, will move your account to a new supplier and let you know which one this is – usually within a few days.

You should then wait for your new supplier to contact you. If you haven’t heard from them within two weeks, we recommend getting in touch. You can check this list to see if your supplier has gone bust, and to see who your new supplier is.

Smart meters

Smart meters automatically measure how much gas and electricity you’re using at home, so you don’t have to.

As well as the meter itself, which uses a remote network to automatically send your meter readings to your supplier. Smart meters come with an in-home display screen, which shows you how much energy you’re using, when you’re using it, and how much it costs.

All households in the UK will be offered a smart meter installation at no upfront cost. If you don’t have a smart meter but would like one installed, contact your energy supplier who should be able to book an installation appointment for you.

What are the benefits of smart meters?

Smart meters will accurately measure how much energy you use, which means you don’t have to remember to submit regular meter readings, and you should always get accurate gas and electricity bills from your energy supplier.

They send your meter readings directly to your energy supplier, so you’ll only ever pay for exactly what you use, rather than using an estimate.

A smart meter can help you reduce how much energy you use at home. This is because when you can see and understand how you’re using energy – and how much of it you’re using – you’re better able to manage that usage.

Smart meters can also allow households to take advantage of advanced time of use tariffs, where it costs less to use energy at certain times of day (usually outside of peak hours in the morning and evening).

You could also be paid to use electricity outside of peak times. Octopus Energy, for example, plans to pay customers up to £100 to cut their energy use at certain times of the day this winter – but you’ll need a smart meter to benefit from the scheme.