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What’s stopping you switching your energy, broadband or mobile provider?

A woman compares her energy bills to a price comparison site

There are plenty of savings to be made by regularly switching suppliers, but not everyone is keen to take the plunge. What stops you from switching?

With the weather changing and the heating going on, it’s no surprise that mid-September is the most popular time of year for people to look for a new energy supplier. 

Energy bills often get the most attention, but it’s not the only thing that you might save – or even gain money, as sometimes is the case with bank accounts – by switching. 

Here’s what you could gain by switching your services:

Avoid record energy prices

From 1 October the price cap on out-of-contract energy tariffs is rising by its largest ever amount – meaning as many as 15 million homes will be facing an energy price rise of as much as £139 a year. 

Switching to a new provider now could help you avoid this rise, as well as save as much as £68 per year on your energy bills. If you switch to a fixed rate tariff you will also be protected against any price rises during your contract. 

And once you start it can take as little as 10 minutes to choose your new supplier and tariff online. It will then take 16-18 days on average (plus a 14 day cooling off period) for your supply to be switched to the new company.

If you want added peace of mind, choose a company which has signed up to the Energy Switch Guarantee, as they have committed to switching your energy supply within 21 days (including the cooling-off period).

Pay less for the same broadband speed

When we surveyed more than 4,000 broadband customers, we found the average customer pays £33.77 for their broadband deal. With superfast broadband deals starting around £26, switching could save you as much as £143 per year – as well as give you a chance to update your connection and equipment. 

Switching provider could also give you access to a faster, more reliable service, an important consideration with the increase in the number of connections we all have in our homes.

Virtual mobile networks and SIM-only deals

The overwhelming majority of the 80 million active mobile subscriptions in the UK are with one of the ‘big four’ networks – and these are often at the expensive end of the market. 

Mobile virtual network operators – an operator that partners with and piggybacks off the signal provided by one of the four mobile phone mast operating providers – have to work harder for your money, and offer extremely competitive prices to do so.

If you’re happy with your handset, taking a SIM-only deal can often work out cheaper than a contract in the long run, even if you have to pay more upfront by buying the handset. 

Would you make the switch?

What would persuade you to change up your broadband, mobile phone, or energy services? Do you simply look for the best price, or do other incentives like gift vouchers or cash help sway your decision? Does the company you go with make a difference in your decision? 

What's the biggest incentive for you to consider switching providers? (choose up to 3)
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If you’ve found a comparable service available to you that offers better value but haven’t switched, what’s stopping you? Are you happy enough with your current provider, or worry it will be too much hassle?  

For those who have switched providers recently: how was it? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments. 

And if you’re looking to switch, Which? Switch can provide you with a transparent and impartial way to compare and and find the best provider for your needs, be it for your Energy Provider, Broadband, or mobile phone

Comments

I would never switch energy provider again. I did switch about 5 years ago it was a nightmare the company that I switched to were totally unprofessional in every aspect of there approach and to make matters worse I had just had major surgery . I would definitely not go down that road again not even for a million pounds. Ever.

This could be what is stopping people from switching energy suppliers:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58610561

The fragility of the UK’s energy market is a serious deterrent since many of the lower-priced suppliers cannot survive the rise in global wholesale prices for gas and electricity and are collapsing.

Luckily, so far as I know, the same companies are not involved in the mobile phone or broadband markets but some of the major energy firms are in some form or other.

I wish my supplier would go bust! They so messed up my switch from EDF Energy that no other supplier will touch my supply with a (fibreglass) barge pole. They are holding £1000s in credit that they won’t return, and ignore any requests for a bill or to switch tariffs.

Before I went on holiday I received a reminder from Ovo that my two year contract for gas and electricity would be ending soon, so I used Which? Switch to compare prices of what I have been offered with other companies. The cheapest option was Avro Energy, but checking the most recent accounts on the Companies House website showed that the company was running at a loss and the auditor had expressed concerns about the company. I know that if an energy supplier fails, Ofgem will transfer customers to another supplier so that supplies will be continued and if they are lucky the process should go smoothly. The costs involved will of course be shared by other customers. 🙁

Four more small energy companies that have failed recently: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/14/half-a-million-homes-to-be-given-new-energy-supplier-after-two-more-go-bust

Ofgem was supposed to be looking at the viability of small energy companies but the regulator will have to try harder. Small companies do not have the resources to cope in difficult times or the buying power of larger suppliers.

The large energy suppliers have a relatively poor record for customer service, so medium sized companies that can combine decent customer service, financial stability and be able to offer competitive prices is, in my view, what we need.

My mobile service provider gave me twice the monthly data allowance for the same price when I renewed my contract and my landing/broadband provider reduced my monthly bill by £2 and significantly increased my download and upload speeds.

Unfortunately, but understandably, Ofgem’s control on the viability (financial security) of energy suppliers was not retrospective. Many small ones are, or were, making hay while the sun shines, trading on low wholesale costs to offer good deals. They do not have the ability to ride out significant increases in wholesale costs because they have not protected forward purchases. They can take their rewards and leave the remaining companies to pick up the bills – usually repaying the credits customers have built up.

If we do end up with 10 suppliers that seems enough to me to ensure a continuing competitive market.

I agree that ten energy suppliers could provide adequate capacity and competition, but I would prefer to see a structured reduction to that level with a well-balanced industry emerging at the end of it rather than a freefall meltdown which could happen in the present circumstances.

I see that Ofgem has asked Avro to provide information, which it has so far failed to do so: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications/ofgem-orders-avro-energy-provide-financial-information

Is it too much to ask for Ofgem to investigate companies prior to granting a licence to supply electricity and gas, and to monitor performance annually?

Yesterday I posted this in a Conversation about malfunctioning time clocks; probably not the best place now this Conversation is running –

“Apparently, according to the BBC News website, four more small energy companies could collapse in the week ahead as a result of the steep rise in wholesale gas prices: “Industry sources have told the BBC that four firms have asked larger players to bid to take over the supply to one million customers.” The names of the companies have not yet been disclosed.

The article goes on to say that “at the beginning of 2021 there were 70 energy suppliers in the UK. Industry sources say there may be as few as 10 left by the end of the year.” See —
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58610561

The collapse of a further 50 or more firms over the course of three months would be an immense logistical challenge in reallocating all the customers affected to whichever suppliers have survived and absorbing their accounts. I can’t even contemplate how Ofgem is going to manage it successfully and protect consumer’s interests. Perhaps the government will have to nationalise some of the firms or enforce some amalgamations to create new companies and provide them with sufficient resources to enable them to operate for a specified period.

As well as transferring customer accounts the expiring companies’ supply contracts will all need to be disentangled and terminated or transferred at higher rates so the implications of such a situation might not be limited to customers of the firms at risk.

The light at the end of the tunnel of competitive energy pricing just went out.”

[ https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/economy-7-energy-meter-clock-overpayments/#comment-1636501 ]

Ofgem introduced stricter financial requirements for all energy suppliers, before they would grant a licence, earlier this year but they could not be retrospective. So we still have many energy suppliers who are under-capitalised and vulnerable.

As far as monitoring suppliers ”Ofgem is issuing Avro Energy with a provisional order, which compels it to provide the regulator with financial and other information relating to the company’s activities.

Ofgem requested the financial information on 19 August.

Avro Energy is now required to immediately provide this information and we expect them to engage in constructive discussions about their financial projections.

Failure to provide the financial information requested by Ofgem is a breach of Avro Energy’s licence conditions, which all suppliers in the market have signed up to.

Failure to comply may result in further enforcement action being taken by the regulator which could include a fine, or Avro Energy being stripped of its licence to operate in the GB market.

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2021-08/Open%20letter%20-%20Retail%20financial%20stability.pdf

I dread to think of the fallout that might result from the failure of Together Energy. I have no evidence one way or another to suggest this might happen, except that last year’s accounts have now been filed, showing further losses of £4 million for 2020, making a total of £23 million, plus eye-watering interest rates of 11% on its outstanding loans.

What could turn this into another local government scandal of epic proportions, is Warrington Borough Council’s ill-advised investment in this private company. This was done through the issue and purchase of £18 million worth of preference shares, when the company was already making a loss. These accrue a guaranteed dividend of 7% which has never been paid, but accumulates as a debt on the accounts until such time as Together Energy manage to turn a profit and are legally able to pay a dividend.

Warrington Borough Council on the other hand (according to press reports) are recording these phantom dividend payments as income in their accounts.

The minority Conservative and Liberal councillors are unhappy about the lack of transparency over the deal. What the ratepayers will make of it, I’ve no idea.

So it looks like double jeopardy if Together Energy were to fail. Both electricity consumers and Warrington ratepayers will be picking up the tab. Who allows this sort of mismanagement of public money?

I won’t provide links as I haven’t had time to research this fully (E.&O.E. applies). But please Google [Together Energy Warrington] for information and any updates on what could become a “hot” topic before the end of the year. Maybe that will provide a new source of cheap sustainable energy.

Robin Hood Energy was just as badly supported by Nottingham City Council, and now apparently Enviroenergy, their district heating venture, is going into liquidation. I wonder what permits incompetent amateurs to throw away council taxpayers’ money?

If I understand correctly, failed energy suppliers Robin Hood Energy and Bristol Energy – the latter ironically taken over by Together Energy, which has probably just added to the risk – were started by their respective local authorities around 2015, perhaps with good intention.

What I don’t understand is why Warrington, and very late to the table, would invest in a loss-making private company. This at about the same time as Robin Hood and Bristol Energy were already struggling, and Covid-19 was so serious that even large banks and other financial institutions were warned not to pay dividends, but hold the money for contingencies.

Latest on the energy price hikes, BG are to take on 350.000 customers from collapsed Peoples Energy. The government is now considering loans for struggling smaller energy companies, presumably to avert a return to Big Six monopoly.

70 energy companies – about what we have today (but unlikely next month) – is far far more than we need for a competitive market.

Six is not a monopoly. However, some have predicted we will end up with around 10 and that seems quite enough for a properly-functioning market.

What the current temporary crisis has exposed is our over-reliance on wind farms that don’t contribute enough when there is little wind, as has been the case. We need a more balanced spread of renewables, and ones that are more predictable than wind and solar. These should include harnessing tidal energy. We will also, perhaps worryingly, require much more nuclear generation but unless we get our skates on and re-establish a proper UK design, manufacture and build policy we will not be able to meet the domestic gas and fossil fuelled car replacement policies.

“Six is not a monopoly” says malcolm, and we don’t need 70 energy companies to ensure competition. True enough! Someone can always undercut the rest and sell cheaper for a time, but there is a limit to how low anyone can go in selling exactly the same product from the same wholesalers – in this case electricity.

I struggle to think of even six retailers I would trust to buy appliances from that consume electricity. Not that I liked Currys or Comet, but at least there was some alternative in the retail parks. That is more of a concern.

Six is not a monopoly if the market share is evenly spread across them but it could lead to one or two of the survivors having a technical monopoly of over 30% of the domestic market. It would also depend on whether the market share is determined by reference to number of households or energy volume supplied.

It has recently been reported that unspecified ‘industry sources’ regard the prospect of ten energy companies surviving this situation as “optimistic”.

A recent development in this situation is that Ofgem is having difficulty in persuading the major energy companies to take on the customers of the closed suppliers under their safety net scheme. To some extent they are under an obligation to cooperate with Ofgem in this process but are reluctant because it might jeopardise their own viability. They are therefore looking for further incentives in order to support the rescue efforts and state-backed loans have been under discussion.

Here is an article that mentions state-backed loans: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/20/uk-energy-firms-could-get-state-backed-loans-to-take-on-customers It mentions that the UK has suffered higher price rises than some countries in Europe.

Then it’s time for Boris to deliver on removing 5% VAT from energy supplies. He had both the Brexit mandate and now the PM’s authority to make good on his promises. What is he waiting for?

Probably waiting to put a mileage tax on electric cars to help redress the loss of full vat and fuel duty on ordinary private cars. We have a heavier tax bill to fund what with Covid and social care that has to be found somewhere.

Thanks, Wavechange. The article reports that British Gas will be taking on People’s Energy customers but no mention has been made of which company will be taking on the customers of Utility Point which also collapsed just over a week ago. This might be evidence that Ofgem is already struggling to line their safety net up safely.

I expect one of the reasons for the UK’s higher energy costs compared with some other European countries is that, as Malcolm said previously, we raced towards unreliable renewables. In doing so we also gave up other capacity prematurely, have a hiatus in nuclear replacement capacity, and have poor gas contracts involving the wrong sort of regimes! We now only need a biomass bulk carrier to break down on the high seas and we shall be right in the clarts.

Cocker draws our attention to the increased revenue from VAT that will accrue to the Exchequer from any further hikes in energy prices.

Perhaps its now also time to reform the Winter Fuel Allowance to ensure that the most needy get it but the wealthy [and those who’ll now be shifting to the Mediterranean for the winter] don’t.

I mentioned above that by looking at the accounts of Avro Energy, the auditors had doubts about going concern. Just a couple of weeks ago it was the top recommendation for me by Which? Switch, but now the company has failed: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58652083

I would be grateful if Which? would check for obvious problems before recommending suppliers.

I have a 2 year fixed price account with OVO which expires 28th August 2022. If they were to become another casualty of gas hikes, would the same terms of this contract be transferable to another OfGem appointed supplier?

Not necessarily, Beryl.

From the BBC article referenced by Wavechange : “If an energy firm collapses, customers are automatically switched to a tariff provided by the new supplier. This is a payment plan agreed with the regulator Ofgem, but it may well be more expensive than the deal they had with the former company which went bust.

It is a bit hit and miss John. There are no guarantees.

Many will be keen to know what will happen in these uncertain times. From what I remember, Ovo were running their domestic energy supply at a loss but that is only part of their business. Thanks to the take over of SSE customers, Ovo is now one of the larger suppliers, even if they are not in the best position under the present circumstances.

We know that suppliers of failed energy companies will be transferred to another supplier but I don’t know about the terms of the contract. You have asked an important question, Beryl.

Information from the Ofgem website regarding customers transferred to another supplier:

“Will I be on a different contract with my new supplier?

Yes. Your old tariff will end.

Instead, your new supplier will put you on a special ‘deemed’ contract. This means a contract you haven’t chosen. This contract will last for as long as you want it to.”

At least you will have the opportunity to move to another supplier.

OVO offered SSE fixed rate customers the same fixed rate terms when they were transferred, but under different circumstances: ovoenergy.com – Questions About Moving From SSE to OVO. I hope they are able to survive this next crisis.

I predicted that this is the beginning of a real sort out of small energy suppliers when their weakness in the face of significant increases in wholesale costs becomes apparent. Whilst I believe in business and competition it must be remembered that most of these small companies are run by people out to make money for themselves without the financial foundations needed to sustain a business through bad times as well as good. They may cream off the profits before the collapse, so have achieved their objectives, leaving the other companies (and hence the consumer) to pick up the bill.

Hopefully Ofgem’s current financial requirements will reduce the likelihood of this happening in the future.

We do not need 70 energy suppliers.

It looks highly likely that the government will have to subsidise many of the customers who have been put back into the market by the failure of their supplier because, otherwise, given the energy price cap other companies will not want to take them on to lose even more money.

I think the price of gas has increased so significantly due to extraordinary circumstances and will come back to normal in not too many weeks – as has happened to oil in the past. So ditched customers may well find it worth living with a (capped) standard variable tariff in the short term and, hopefully, when things return to normal, then choose a fixed term fixed price tariff at a more sensible price than is currently available.

My new contract with Ovo starts on 4 October, Beryl. Unlike other large companies I have been with Ovo have never increased my direct debit when I have been well in credit.

I tend to increase or top up when necessary Wavechange to make sure I stay in credit, which is what I like about OVO, and they are still offering 5% on end of term credit balances.

That’s what I have generally done in the three years that I have been with Ovo at this address. I did not expect to be staying with Ovo because they were looking expensive when I checked a few months ago.

Good luck with finding a cheaper one at the moment. Keep us informed. I’m on the lookout for a good deal but now may not be the best time to commit to one.

Two of the cheapest energy companies reported by Which? as recently as April this year have now gone bust: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/04/top-five-cheapest-energy-supplier-deals-for-april-2021/

Now apparently is not a good time to go for a fixed rate term while prices are high as gas prices are expected to fluctuate in the future as with petrol prices. It’s advisable to wait until they come down and in the meantime look for the cheapest standard variable.

Aware of the likely fluctuation in prices I chose a one year contract this time. Assuming that our supplier survives I won’t be paying much more than I am at present.

The price cap on energy costs has been criticised but it could help protect the vulnerable.

But is it the energy companies role to do that? I don’t think so; social security have that job where they can target help. The rest of us need to live with the market.

OVO have a pretty good track record when it comes to admin and allowing for future price hikes, for example the SSE acquisition was probably a good move, hopefully increasing their size will see them through this crises. It’s all a bit uncertain at the moment. We can only speculate.

I hope so. They are also buying electricity from renewable resources which might help further investment.

A couple of years I was concerned about Which? mentioning ‘Outfox the Market’ (Foxglove Energy Supply Ltd) as a cheap energy supplier but despite my doubts it has survived and is well rated by Which? I do hope that we don’t lose more companies.

Malcolm – Many consumers have, over the years, failed to switch to cheaper energy tariffs despite switching being a relatively straightforward process for many of us. It’s a lot easier to cap the energy price rather than expecting them to jump through hoops claiming benefits.

Capping the energy price benefits everyone, whether in need or not. I prefer to target benefits – taxpayer’s money – at those who genuinely need financial help so it is used to best effect.

The reasoning has been explained by the government. Sometimes we should think about people less fortunate than ourselves. Anyone with a reasonably modern car will pay more in depreciation per year than their bill for electricity and gas.

Would you like to explain the relevance of this ”Sometimes we should think about people less fortunate than ourselves.” to what has been said? As far as I can see, targeting help through the benefits systems is far better than giving everyone a “subsidy”, irrespective of their financial situation. It makes proper use of taxpayers’ money. But I may have missed the point you were making.

It’s not true that everyone is given a subsidy. Many of us check prices periodically and switch to companies that offer prices below the current cap.

It looks as if the government will be effectively subsidising some energy customers by providing loans to help their energy companies survive.

I agree with Malcolm on it being the role or government and the welfare state to support the vulnerable. Energy companies are already bound by various regulations and obligations with regard to tariffs, disconnections, payment arrangements and other conditions. But the state must step up to the mark when problems mount as they seem to be doing at the moment.

In a recent comment, Em mentioned the triple lock pension safeguard which is being partially suspended next year. Energy prices are an important component of the cost of living and will feed into the consumer prices index which is used as one of the bases for the triple lock. Only the average earnings growth rate is being temporarily removed from the triple lock formula. The cost of living index and the 2.5% minimum threshold will remain as factors in setting the level of the state retirement pension but this is calculated on the September inflation rate so any higher energy prices later this year will not count for next year’s pension increase although the energy price cap will still apply, albeit possibly at a yet higher level.

About 15 million households in England, Wales and Scotland face a 12% rise in their energy bills from October, when a higher energy cap is due to come into force. Northern Ireland has a different price cap mechanism. The energy cap sets the maximum price suppliers can charge customers on a standard [or default] tariff:

:: Those on standard tariffs could see an increase of £139, from £1,138 to £1,277 a year.
:: People with pre-payment meters could see an increase of £153, from £1,156 to £1,309.
:: Households on fixed tariffs will be unaffected, but those coming to the end of a contract probably won’t be able to find a cheap deal to replace it.

These are substantial percentage increases but energy is only one part of the rate of inflation. Some other costs in the overall bundle of living expenses have been falling or are stable but there are price pressures in other areas such as food and household products.

The July 2021 inflation rate was 2% but it will be a couple of months before the September rate is declared. I would forecast that next year’s state pension increase will not exceed 2.5% but in six months’ time inflation could be running at 4-5%. This system does not automatically apply to other welfare provisions or to people on low incomes but below pension age. The government’s response to appeals for the £20 temporary uplift in Universal Credit to be retained is that wages are rising strongly and there are more job vacancies than for a very long time.

Even though pensioners have been benefitting from above-inflation pension increases for some time [due to the triple lock] I think there will be hardship in that sector and also among other sections of the population who, for a number of sound reasons, do not have the opportunity to increase their incomes. Wage rises are not evenly spread out across the economy and job opportunities are certainly not available in all regions or all industries.

I should be very surprised if we are not heading for another period of recession which will affect any sense of economic bounce-back after Brexit and Covid-19. This forecast does not require any special insights and I expect it is widely feared. I just hope the government is flexible in considering the needs of the most vulnerable people in society and will take measures that will help them as a priority. At the moment, I get the impression there is an over-confident attitude of “Crisis? What crisis? Don’t worry . . . Everything will be all right” in the top circles of this government reminiscent of Jim Callaghan’s government in 1978 which fell after a vote of no confidence. That is unlikely now given the parliamentary arithmetic so I hope over-confidence does not turn into arrogance.

As far as I am aware the government have refused to support failing energy companies. Quite right too, if they have a poor business model. We need far fewer of these suppliers.

”It’s not true that everyone is given a subsidy.”. In this context those on capped standard variable tariffs are likely to be getting a subsidy, as are all those, rich and poor, who receive the winter fuel payment.

By avoiding paying subsidies and other payments to those not in need we would make possible better benefits for those who really need them, thus ”I, for one, am thinking about people less fortunate than myself

While talktalk has a poor customer service I will stick with it because NO one has a package to match it. I realy like my call anytime service for the land line. It is often B.T. that lets consumers down with the monopoly that they have over the network, B.T is still pulling the strings.

I decided to change my energy supplier to Octopus energy and requested digital metering.
After much delay this was eventually installed on 12th August, it did not work. The engineer said “It will be completed remotely the next day”. A week later I first made contact and was told it was in hand.
Now more than a month later, following several phone calls and emails, I am told it will be passed to service engineers who may take six weeks before investigation even begins.
If this investigation fails in resolving, it will be booked for another home visit up to six weeks later.
Apart from being disappointing service, I wonder if this is reluctance to honour the new tariff promised due to the impending gas shortages.

I’ve switched energy providers a few times to get a better deal and so far never had an issue. In the last 12 months, I’ve also switched my mobile phone provider, to a sim only package, to pay £25 less a month. It only took a couple of days and had no issues with the transfer.

Broadband is the one I struggle with as you can never really tell with the different providers what the actual speed is going to be. Working from home more, I can’t really afford to switch and find the connection is poor.

If different broadband providers are using the same cables there is unlikely to be much difference between suppliers, Dan. Nowadays you will get a minimum speed guarantee and if the company cannot meet this you will be entitled to end your contract: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/advice/broadband-speeds-code-practice

I am new to Which and this is my first time contributing to the conversation.
I am one of many customers who have been transferred from another provider to Shell energy. I just had a nasty shock to the system. Only finding that even though I pay my broadband and phone bill quarterly (due this month). Shell cannot offer me my bill statement because of the transition, despite officially in writing letting me know my details are transferred.
I have to wait until May (the next bill due). Therefore I will be paying two bills. Not sure how those on direct debit are doing. I am already budgeting until there is no more room to budget. I shop at Aldi before it became popular. As a unpaid carer to a special needs adult sibling I suddenly had a headache with Shells bombshell of response (customer service were polite).
Is this common knowledge with other customers?

Hi Elly and welcome to Which? Conversation.

The cheapest way to buy energy is usually an online account paid for by monthly direct debit. I have gas and electricity smart meters and logging into the website shows the cost of electricity and gas used each day, and my balance, so that I know whether I am in credit or debit. I do not know the arrangements for those who pre-pay for energy. Until the major price rises it was best to choose a tariff that offered a fixed price for a year or longer but now most customers are on the default tariff where the maximum price per unit is capped by Ofgem, the regulator. Obviously not everyone is happy to use an online account and will not benefit from the lowest prices.

Switching energy company has usually been easy for me but I had to pursue one company for not refunding all the credit I was entitled to.

I suggest that you contact Shell again and find out if there is a more appropriate tariff for you.

Elly, it does take time for new energy providers to resolve customers’ debits or credits with a failed supplier and apply them to your new bill, but it will happen. If you were on a fixed price tariff you will, no doubt, face a significant increase in cost as you will go onto a variable price tariff, albeit with a unit price cap. Once your account is sorted out you are free to transfer to any supplier you choose although, at present, that may not be beneficial.

This is some useful information from Which? https://www.which.co.uk/news/2022/02/ease-the-squeeze-how-to-save-on-your-energy-bills/ More can be found on their website by searching “energy”.

For customers who pay by direct debit, the payment will be called from their bank by the energy supplier. There is the possibility, therefore, that, if the transfer arrangements have not yet been resolved, one or more month’s or quarter’s payments will not be collected on schedule. This would create arrears that the new company should give good notice of and, if requested, arrange a new payment schedule over a longer period. I don’t believe this a mandatory practice but I would hope a reputable supplier would be sympathetic when a takeover of supply has disrupted a customer’s payments. If possible, customers in this situation would be well advised to put away some money to cover this potential underpayment so that the money is available when a larger than normal bill comes in. This is one one of the circumstances where smart metering can assist customers with managing their energy consumption and billing.

If you have an online account and have smart meters installed (free of charge) you should be able to see your current balance and how much electricity and gas you have used.

Today I am £20.91 in credit and I can see when my monthly direct debit is due and how much the payment will be. I can easily change the direct debit or make a one-off extra payment if my balance is in debit. I can also look back at how much electricity and gas I have used each day since opening the account, and this is what I used in December:

I remember the days of having the meters read quarterly and not knowing what my bills would be unless I read the meters and did the calculations. That was not difficult but life is now much easier and there are no estimated bills as a result of being out when the meter reader visited. In these days, electricity and gas were much more affordable than they are now. 🙁

While it is interesting to look at the outputs of smart meters I wonder how many people, at least once any novelty has worn off, will bother to use the information available. I wonder how many will actually make significant energy savings directly as a result of having smart meters, even though the potential is there.

The major savings in energy can be made by following Which?’s advice. Looking at when to have heating on and off, controlling heating properly in different parts of the house, insulating, draught-proofing, replacing failed appliances with those that save energy (but remember for many this is about saving money, so purchase cost must be traded against energy saving cost, as with heat pump dryers).

If, and when, we are offered domestic hourly or half-hourly tariffs judging how to save the most will become even more complicated. But if the above underlying fundamentals are in place then you are off to a good start.

For those on limited incomes I think it is vital to understand and control your general spending. Looking after your finances starts with looking at your whole annual income and spending. Recording all spending routinely identifies that which is essential and the discretionary. Making an annual budget using different spending categories and monitoring those during the course of the year helps keep control.

If you don’t make use of the information, you might as well unplug the display unit that shows your use of electricity and gas, which will save a few pennies a year. You will still benefit from not having to read meters and supply them to your energy supplier(s).

In the same way that having smart meters does not automatically save money, neither does recording of expenditure. What matters is what you do with the information.

That was my point. I would put general financial control and budgeting as a priority over just looking at one item of spending. I think you need to be a particular type of person to use, or want to use, available information to your benefit.

You can save energy by taking measures advised by Which?. You can save petrol and diesel by choosing a more economical car. You can save on your food shop by the food you buy and choice of retailer…..and so on. Identifying how much you spend, and what on (essential vs. discretionary) shows where the biggest savings can be made, if savings are necessary. Knowledge is the key. But how many people put in the effort?

I don’t have a smart meter, but I do not look forward to the monthly climb over storage boxes, vacuum cleaners, mops and other domestic appliances to read the meters, often in the dark aided by a torch, note pad and pen. After reading, I submit them to the energy company online who then immediately supply the previous years usage history. I then do a quick comparison with the previous years usage which helps me to predict the amount of energy I will use against the increase or fluctuation in prices over the coming year. I am presently enjoying the benefit of a 2 year fixed price. but as I currently have a healthy credit balance, I anticipate this, together with any OvO interest accrued on this balance, will compensate the huge expected increase in energy prices at the end of the fixed price period.

It’s all very well having a smart meter, but what about when it stops functioning properly? I had an e-mail message from our supplier last week to ask for an electricity reading because the meter had not been sending the data to the company since August 2021. The bill is paid by monthly standing order and our electricity consumption does not vary much each month except there is more use [for lighting] during the winter. The monitor gives no indication of this fault and I have received no information on how the supplier will deal with it; possibly a new unit will be needed unless the problem lies in the data transmission system or the signal. I am expecting an adjustment to the monthly direct debit. The DD for gas recently increased by 50% and I believe there’s more of the same to come.

Perhaps I should open the little book that came with the display unit and see what it can do for us. I haven’t looked at the monitor since it arrived and it sits there in a corner of the store room in sleep mode.

I have to say the cost of electricity is not terribly significant as there is not much we can do to alter our consumption and we are naturally economical. It is what it is.

I read that 42% of electricity production came from wind power during the Dudley and Eunice storms. As they say . . . it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. But when will the lower input cost to the grid manifest itself in a tariff reduction for domestic consumers?

My house is fairly modern and the meters are outdoors. The electricity meter would be easy to read but the gas meter is in a plastic box at ground level. I visit it annually to say hello to the spiders and check that the isolation valve turns easily, so that I can be sure of being able to shut it off in emergency. One of the first jobs I did when I moved in was to prune the Pyracantha to make it possible to access the gas meter. The previous occupants had obviously not bothered because a smart meter took care of the readings.

John – Your supply company should be able to identify the fault and arranged for it to be fixed. It will be a problem with the smart meter rather than the display unit because the latter does not control operation of the meter. It would be interesting to find out what the problem is.

The introduction of wind and other forms of renewable power has involved huge capital costs and use of tidal power is likely to be even more expensive. If the wholesale price of gas goes down then we should see lower prices for energy and hopefully they will be passed on to consumers. Hopefully we will become more independent of other countries in our energy supply but I fear that high prices could be with us for the foreseeable future.

The ‘free’ energy supplied by Eunice and her female associates, unfortunately will still need to be paid for. I am waiting for science to invent a small windmill to erect in my garden with the capability of harvesting the energy supplied by her fury, to compensate for the damage to my fence and summerhouse on Saturday.

I’m sorry you have experienced damage, Beryl.

Suitable wind generators exist but are best suited for larger properties and farms. Many have tried small wind generators and have been disappointed, for example this chap: https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-8900247/Getting-wind-power-garden-really-isnt-breeze.html Planning permission may be needed too. A solar roof or panels are a better bet if the main roof faces approximately south, but may not be permitted in a conservation area.

Rather than trying to generate electricity on your own property it might be more remunerative to invest directly in a wind farm or solar farm and use the dividends to pay the electricity bill. You would then be free to move wherever and wherever you want. [Please don’t take this as a recommendation; I haven’t done the maths.]

Thanks for the link Wavechange. Toby deserves top marks for enterprise! I welcome the thought of hens laying golden eggs, safe from canine predators 🙂 I can envisage every new development with at least one wind turbine installed nearby as standard practice in the future, subject of course to all the usual planning regulations. I am east – west facing surrounded by trees so solar power would be ineffective here.

This might work: https://www.wikihow.com/Build-a-Wind-Turbine

The Wikihow article suggests a minimum of half an acre for a wind turbine capable of generating 3kW, but most of the time it would be much less. That’s bigger than my back garden.

Wind power has been producing over 40% of our national power requirements during the recent gales, using enormous generators.

John’s suggestion of investing in wind, solar or other generation of renewable electricity has merit but I have not seen it promoted.

These were promoted many years ago and generally regarded as fairly worthless. The EST has an article here that indicates a payback time of around 100 years and very unlikely to last anywhere near that long https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/wind-turbines/

The last thing I’d like to see is a forest of windmills in every inhabited space.

I would like to see a national company, government supported, that invests in the build and operation of renewable energy sources of the various types, including tidal, small nuclear, that we could all invest in and share any rewards – eventually.

@Beryl The ‘free’ energy supplied by Eunice and her female associates

Storms are no longer exclusively female. In the last few days, we’ve had Dudley, Eunice and now Franklyn. The next two storms will be called Gladys and Herman.

@malcolm_r Great idea! And we could call it the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB).

I agree Em, but storms apparently are quite sexist, and strictly speaking, I may be in danger of contravening the T&Cs! It transpires female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes for the following reasons.

“A hurricane named “Priscilla” probably wouldn’t be taken as seriously as a hurricane named “Bruno” which might spark more fear
and prompt more people to flee.”

Gender names are normally decided on the predicted death toll.

For the UK, Eire and The Netherlands, the storm names for the rest of this year will alternate, female then male, and have already been selected by the three meteorological offices acting together.

The three most recent storms affecting the UK have presented wind forces in the hurricane category [Force 12 – wind speeds above 73 mph]. While the severity of storms can be forecast with reasonable accuracy a few days ahead, and the risk of loss of life can therefore be assessed, it is impossible to predict the likely death toll because it largely depends on when and where a storm will strike.

After Gladys and Herman, the storms will have these names — Imani, Jack, Kim, Logan, Méabh, Nasim, Olwen, Pól, Ruby, Seān, Tineke, Vergil, and Willemien. It will be interesting to see which are the most destructive. By convention there will be no storms with names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are so few first names starting with those letters that they would have to be repeated too frequently. With good luck, we won’t have to endure a full set; with bad luck, additional names might be required.

John – I agree predicted names of future storms will alternate, and as it is only possible to forecast their severity within a matter of days rather than weeks or months, changes are highly likely.

See: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/01/health/female-hurricanes-deadlier-than-male-hurricanes-trnd/index.html

Yes, it will be interesting to see how it evolves this year. We have already had two of each and I would rate the balance as evens.

You might like to read Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Female of the Species. It is not altogether politically correct by today’s standards. The final two verses are symptomatic of the male superiority attitudes prevailing a century ago.

Times indeed have changed, thanks to extensive psychological studies and the evolution of the female species. As previously posted, recognition and acceptance of the differences is paramount if mutual respect is to be achieved. If men could seek and become more aware of their innate feminine side and women their masculine side, a better understanding between both sexes could ensue.

We seem to have veered away from the main topic John, and need to switch over to The Lobby if you feel a need to pursue this subject further.

Beryl says: Today 13:43

Times indeed have changed, thanks to extensive psychological studies and the evolution of the female species.

How, exactly, do you believe the ‘female species’ has evolved, Beryl?