Energy tariff and switching Q & A

If you’ve never switched energy supplier, or you’ve not switched since your last fixed rate deal ended, it’s likely you’ll be on a standard variable rate energy tariff – which means you’ll be paying more for your gas and electricity.

But why are standard variable rate tariffs more expensive? And how much could switching supplier really save you? We answer these, and more of your energy questions below…

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How do I find out who supplies my gas and electricity?

The simplest way to find out who is supplying your gas and electricity is to check your latest energy bill. This will be in your email inbox if you’re on paper-free billing.

If you’ve just moved in, the previous owner or tenant should have the details. If not, the estate agent, letting agent, or landlord should know who the energy suppliers are.

How do I find out who supplies my gas?

If you can’t find out who supplies the gas to your home, call the Meter Point Administration Service on 0870 608 1524, and they will give you the details.

How do I find out who supplies my electricity?

If you’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to finding out who your electricity supplier is, your local electricity distribution service should be able to help. There are 14 local distribution companies and their contact details are below. To find out who your supplier is, you can call the number, or enter your postcode on the website:

Region Supplier Telephone
Scotland North Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks 0800 048 3516
Scotland Central and South SP Energy Networks 0800 092 9290
North West England Electricity North West 0800 048 1820
Merseyside and North Wales SP Energy Networks 0800 001 5400
South Wales Western Power Distribution 0800 678 3105
South West Western Power Distribution 0800 678 3105
West Midlands Western Power Distribution 0800 678 3105
East Midlands Western Power Distribution 0800 678 3105
Yorkshire Northern Powergrid 0800 375 675
North East Northern Powergrid 0800 66 88 77
Eastern England UK Power Networks 0800 029 4280
Central and Southern England Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks 0800 048 3516
South East England UK Power Networks 0800 029 4280
London UK Power Networks 0800 029 4280

Who do I call if I have a power cut?

To report a power cut or damage to electricity power lines or substations call the new, national, Freephone number 150 (that’s it, just 150. It can be called from any mobile or landline).

How do I work out how much energy I’m using?

Check your energy bill as this will give you a figure for your monthly energy consumption. If you can’t find a recent energy bill, get in touch with your gas and electricity supplier and they should be able to help.

Although you’re asked for your average energy consumption when switching, this is just to give you a more accurate quote, and you can still make the switch without these figures. When you run a quote with UK Power, we can estimate your energy consumption based on the answers you give us.

Will there be any disruption to my supply when I switch energy supplier?

No, your gas and electricity will enter your home through the existing pipes and cables. There’ll be no disruption to your supply, and no need for any additional work at your property.

How long does it take to switch energy supplier?

The switch should takes 17 days (three days to switch plus a two week cooling-off period), but can take up to three weeks. Your new energy supplier will contact your old one to agree a switch date, which they will let you know about.

Are small energy suppliers safe?

There is always a risk that any energy supplier, like any other business, could go bust, and although the risk is probably higher among smaller energy suppliers, there are procedures in place to protect you if your energy supplier goes bust.

The Ofgem's safety net makes sure you’ll always have an energy supply, and will feel as little change as possible. You can find out more at the Ofgem website.

What is the difference between fixed and variable energy rates?

A fixed rate tariff guarantees the price you pay for each unit of gas and electricity for the duration of your contract. This means you’re protected against energy price hikes during the term of your contract. On the flipside, in the unlikely event that energy prices are cut, you’ll miss out.

A variable tariff has flexible unit prices that go up and down in line with any increases or decreases in the cost of gas and electricity. These deals almost always have higher unit prices than fixed rate tariffs.

Will my monthly bills stay the same on a fixed rate energy tariff?

This depends upon how much energy you use each month – only the unit cost is fixed, so if you use more gas or electricity, your monthly bills will increase accordingly.

Can I pay my energy bill by direct debit?

You can pay your energy bill by cash, cheque, debit card or credit card. Cash payments can be made at the bank or Post Office; cheque payments at the bank, Post Office or by post; and card payments by phone or online.

If you pay by direct debit, you’ll usually be offered a discount by your energy firm. When paying by direct debit, a set amount is taken from your bank account each month, and this amount is based on an estimate of your annual energy consumption rather than your actual consumption. This means you could be paying too much or too little each month, so you should regularly review your bills and meter readings.

This is often a good way to evenly spread the cost of your energy over the course of the year – although you may be overpaying in summer, you’ll be in credit over the winter, so your bills shouldn’t change, even though you’ll be using more energy.

On the downside, if you are underpaying, you could find yourself falling into debt with your energy company. If you find yourself in this position, here’s how to deal with energy debt.

Will I be charged for ending my fixed rate energy deal early?

If you want to switch from a fixed rate tariff before the contract end date, you’ll usually be charged an early exit fee. If you’re on a dual fuel deal, you’ll be charged a separate fee for gas and electricity.

You can avoid paying the exit fee if you put off switching until you’re in the final few weeks of your contract. Your supplier will write to you between 42 and 49 days before your fixed rate deal is due to end – if you switch any time after this, you won’t be charged an exit fee.

You will also be able to leave your deal without penalty if you cancel it within the cooling-off period, which is within 14 days of the contract start date.

If you have any more questions on energy tariffs, get in touch via Facebook or Twitter , and we’ll give you an answer as soon as we can.

Click here to run an energy price comparison, and see if you could be paying less for your gas and electricity.

Les Roberts - Energy Expert at UKPower

Les Roberts - Energy Expert at UKPower

If you’ve got an issue with your energy supplier, our consumer champion Les is on hand to help. A decade in consumer affairs means Les understands how confusing energy tariffs can be, so he'll cut through the jargon to help make sure you get the best deal.