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Paying too much for your energy? Top tips to test your tariff

Using less energy to run your business doesn’t just reduce your environmental impact, it can also save you a packet on your energy bills. In fact, whether it’s upgrading lighting, buying a new boiler or simply getting staff to switch off equipment when it’s not needed, our free energy assessments are typically finding a whopping 24% energy saving potential for small and medium-sized Scottish businesses.

Switching tariffs is another great and potentially very quick way your business could cut costs and boost profits.

“Thanks to the advice we received from the service, we are looking forward to saving around £4,000 a year on our utility bills, when our current contracts end, and we can switch tariffs”.
Grahame Paterson, Chief Executive, Transition Extreme Sports Limited

However, switching tariffs isn’t something that many businesses readily do.

So, to help you test your tariff and see if you could save money by switching, we asked our energy efficiency business advisers to come up with their top tips to help you ensure you’re getting the best energy deal for your business.

Know how much energy you use

Before you start checking the market for alternative tariffs, you need to know just how much energy your business uses – and when you use it. You’ll find that knowledge very handy when speaking with suppliers and discussing options about switching tariffs.

Knowing when you use energy will help you find the tariff which is best for you too. For example, if your business mostly uses energy at nights and weekends (which is common in sport centres, clubs, etc.) moving to an evening and weekend tariff could save you money.

Knowing your maximum demand can also help ensure that you are not paying for a higher available capacity than you need. For example, we’ve seen businesses that were paying for 120kVA, when their highest demand all year was only 50kVA.

You can get this information from your bills or directly from your supplier. Alternatively, you can take regular meter readings yourself – and this template tracker and video will help you with that.

Understand your bill

Once you know how much energy your business uses, it’s a good idea to make sure you understand the actual make-up of your current bill too.

Your energy bill provides various bits of information that are useful to know. There are three main areas to be aware of. The first is supply – and here it’s worth noting whether your current tariff has different charges applied depending on when your business uses energy (e.g. different rates for day-time and night-time use).

The second is what’s often called a standing charge – this is the charge by your supplier to cover the costs of supplying energy and reading your meters. And, finally, there’s the Climate Change Levy (CCL). This is a tax applied to the energy used by non-domestic properties, but not usually to charities.

By taking five minutes to understand your bill, you’ll be more much switched on when comparing prices and looking at alternatives.

(Note: If you think your bill might be wrong, Citizens Advice is on hand to support you and provides lots of useful information such as a handy league table on the performance of energy suppliers).

Set a reminder to shop around

It’s a great idea to put a note in your diary to remind you a couple of months before your current energy contract ends. This will give you time to shop around and negotiate the best deal for you.

Different contracts will give you different lengths of time when you can renegotiate, so check this and make sure you are ready to act. If you don’t take the opportunity to renegotiate, then you may get transferred automatically to a new, much less-favourable contract.

Generally, if you are on a standard variable-rate tariff, there are no charges associated with leaving your supplier, at any time. However, if you are on a fixed tariff, you may face charges if you want to switch prior to the contract end date.

By timing your switch correctly, and as long as your account is not in debt, your current supplier cannot object to you switching. ‘Early exit’ fees can be avoided.

Shop around, but use comparison sites wisely

Comparing tariffs isn’t difficult, but it can take a fair bit of leg work to do the research and ensure you are getting the best deal. The age-old phrase is true – it pays to shop around.

When you do shop around, it’s good to remember the tariff that looks the cheapest isn’t always the best. The quality of service your business will get is also a factor to consider. And, while impartial price comparison websites are available, be aware that not all websites are required to show you all your available tariffs. Sites like Money Saving Expert can signpost you to those comparison clubs that show the full list of suppliers.

And don’t forget, when comparing quotes make sure that all unit-variable costs are included.

Consider using an energy broker

Some businesses choose to use an energy broker to help identify the best tariff. Energy brokers are great for accessing lots of suppliers quickly as they have a good understanding of the commercial energy business. And, they monitor the energy market to ensure they provide their customers with the best deal at any given time.

Don’t be shy about haggling

Haggling isn’t just something you can have fun with when you’re abroad on your holidays or down the local car dealer. Don’t be afraid to haggle with energy suppliers too. With a little prompting they’ll often sharpen their pencil and improve their offer.

Read the Ts and Cs

Finally, when you have found your best deal and before you put ink on the contract, it’s always best to have a final check of the small print. Business contracts usually do not have a cooling-off period.

Switching tariff could potentially save you thousands of pounds on your energy bill. So, give these tips a go and see how much you could save. And, remember, reducing your energy use in the first place is a fail-safe way of saving money. Our advisers are here to help you to do that. They provide free advice, support and project funding. If you would like to save energy and money, give them a call on 0808 808 2268 to see how much you could save.


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