When we are advised about how to save energy on our bills, all we usually hear is “change your supplier.” This is totally unhelpful advise because there is a closed shop of suppliers and its in none of their interests to make our energy any cheaper. Unless we take radical steps to understand we will never be able to beat the Big 6.
The ‘Big 6’ energy suppliers do not actually supply energy: they just do the administration for the District Network Operators. So they buy the gas and electricity from the DNOs then bill you with a marked up bill for the same amount. This helps us work out how to beat them:
- Your gas or electricity bill is made up of two parts: the daily standing charge and the price per kWh of gas or electricity. A standing charge you will get charged for every day no matter how much you use and the unit price is metered and you get charged for what you use. Usually every deal will be high in one or the other. When you pick your supplier this is the rule of thumb: if you do not use much gas/electricity then choose a deal with a low standing charge and high unit price. If you use a lot of gas/electricity choose a deal with a high standing charge and a low unit price.
- There’s not just 6 of them! This may come as a surprise but there are actually many companies who do the exact service as British Gas and the like, they just don’t have anything like the advertising budgets and only really exist online. Some of my faves are Flow, Utility Warehouse and Ecotricity. You may or may not get a better deal but at least you’re spreading the wealth!
- Provide your own. Renewable energy sources such as solar (pv or thermal), biomass and heat pumps are a great way to get yourself off relying on the ‘big 6’. Battery storage for solar pv will help even more.
- Never get them to install your boiler! Or any other big company for that matter. A good rule of thumb for construction work is that the installation company size should be proportional to the size of the project. If you’re replacing your boiler, this is a small job. If you’re building a home this is a big(gish) job. A big company doing a small job will never do it with as much care and attention to detail as a small, well-reputed local installer. All these little guys have to trade off is their reputation, not a massive advertising budget. What’s worse, if one of the big 6 install your boiler they will definitely push you into an emergency cover programme which you don’t need (all decent boilers come with breakdown cover). Go out into your street, look for a van, write down the phone number and give them a call!
- Turn the stat down. To turn an old-fashioned phrase around, you pay for what you get. Same is true for energy. If you’ve got all the lights on, TV blaring and heating blasting. you will use a lot of energy. Of course, the energy companies will pretend that they want you to be more energy efficient but that’s like Cadburys saying people shouldn’t eat chocolate. A little bit of care and self-discipline around the house will really keep your costs down and eat into their profits.
- Sign online petitions to get the government to act: http://action.compassonline.org.uk/page/s/end-the-big-six-energy-fix
It might not be much but every little helps!