Is it time to change your energy supplier?

I hope you have all had a good Christmas and New Year. Of course when the festivities end, we generally make a number of resolutions, which of course fall by the wayside in a short period of time. So here is an important one to consider and I challenge you to do something about it - your electricity bill.

In the autumn of 2013 a lot of attention was focussed on the major suppliers of electricity (also known as "the big six") who all put their prices up and added a bit more financial pain to our outgoings. But if you currently have your electricity supplied by one of these companies, there is nothing to stop you changing to another company, especially if you are not in a fixed period contract with them.

So what information should you have when shopping for a better electrical energy tariff? First and foremost you should understand how much electricity you are using throughout the period of a year. The basic measure is known as a "kilowatt hour". Simply stated this is the amount of electrical power required to power a 1000 watt appliance for a period of one hour. It is expressed as 1 kWh but also equates to one unit of your electricity supply meter (which measures your consumption in kWh).

So if you have paid for 5000 kWh of electricity during one year, this is your projected figure, which should be used in any comparative quotations from alternative suppliers. You should also know what cost a kWh of electricity is from your present supplier and how much is the "standing charge" (a rental value for your meter expressed either in a daily or quarterly figure).

It is also useful to understand what an energy supplier pays for one kWh of electricity from the generating station. Surprisingly this is less than £0.06 and somehow it is sold to us at a very much higher figure (typically £0.14 or much more) then with 5% vat added. 

So how do you choose a new supplier? The good news is that there are smaller companies out there who would like your business and they do not have the overheads of some of the larger companies and may be able to undercut their prices.

Some companies offer the ethical approach of guilt-free power which is generated by 100% renewable processes, as opposed to either nuclear of fossil fuel generating facilities. Others may provide a mix of generating sources, but give an offset in the form of rainforest stewardship to provide a more carbon-neutral approach to environmental safeguarding.

The internet is a useful place to start searching for a supplier to satisfy your financial and environmental requirements. The important consideration here is to ensure that with some simple comparative arithmetic, you can find a better deal in the marketplace.

From 2010 to date, my electrical supplier has increased their annual fixed price kWh costs by over 30%. I consider myself pretty shrewd when it comes to energy supply prices and whilst it is a large jump, other suppliers have made even higher increases. 

It is less painful to change energy providers than either moving bank accounts or broadband companies. Ultimately they do not owe you anything and will probably not give you a better deal even when challenged.

We live in painful economic times and are all financially stressed. Costs of electrical energy are projected to increase by 100 % in less than ten years and will form a substantial portion of your outgoings unless you can shop around for a better deal.

If you are interested in finding out a bit more about the local Transition Group and want to come to our next meeting, it is on Wednesday 5th February 2014 at 1930 hrs in the Merry Harriers pub, Clayhidon - postcode EX15 3TR.

Neil Arnold

Vice Chair - Blackdown Hills Transition Group

01460 234693