Do you know your MPAN from your MPRN? Get to grips with your company’s energy meter and understand your usage

Do you know your MPAN from your MPRN? Get to grips with your company’s energy meter and understand your usage

Have you ever found yourself flummoxed by your business bills? Never fear, we’re here to help

The basics of running any business are fairly simple: bring in more money than you spend in order to generate a profit. Yet factors like energy usage can quickly rack up the costs you have to pay out. But broadening your understanding of how you use your energy can help you find smart ways to reduce costs.

And one of the simplest ways to improve your energy understanding is to get to grips with your meters.

Simply put, taking regular meter readings can help a business to gain a clearer understanding of the units of energy used on a weekly or monthly basis in the workplace and therefore what suppliers will be billing you for.

It’s important to provide regular meter readings

When you first switch to a supplier, the energy rate you’ll be given will usually be based off an estimate of how much energy you are expected to use. And, as Is the nature of an estimate, this could easily be higher (or indeed lower) than your actual gas and electricity usage.

Providing regular meter readings means that the bills you receive are as accurate as possible. Without accurate billing there is a good chance that the direct debit is too high and that cashflow will suffer as a result. While it is true that this money may be recouped or transferred at the end of a contract, it is certainly not best practice to pay out more than necessary upfront.

Bear in mind that a fixed tariff means the rate you pay per unit of energy is fixed, not your monthly cost. So your prices will still rise if your supplier thinks you’re using more gas and electricity.

Giving regular meter readings is an important part of saving on energy costs long term. We recommend sending accurate readings to your supplier at least every couple of months.

What’s the difference between an MPAN and an MPRN?

Often, an MPAN or MPRN number will be needed in order for your business to receive an accurate energy quote. So you might be wondering what these numbers are and where you can find them.

Every electricity meter features a unique number known as an MPAN. Similarly, gas meters all feature an MPRN number. These numbers help to confirm the detail of your energy supply type and consumption, and is also necessary if you decide to switch to a new supplier.

The easiest way to find your MPAN and MPRN numbers is to look on your electricity or gas bill. Your MPRN will appear as a long 11-digit number, while the MPAN will be a series of shorter numbers split into six grid boxes.

How are smart meters different?

Smart meters are designed to make energy usage more efficient, and therefore more cost effective. Not only do they show you exactly how much energy you’re using, but they also transmit this data directly to your supplier, eradicating the need for estimates.

Investing in a smart meter can be an effective way of lowering energy costs. The energy regulator, Ofgem, has even stated that every business should have a smart meter compatible with all energy suppliers by 2020.

Why should you consider switching?

There’s a lot more you can do to reduce your energy costs than simply offering accurate meter readings, and one of the most effective measures is to make sure you’re with the right supplier.

Switching supplier can help to lower the cost of your business utilities. Energy contracts can run from a single year up to five or six years. This suggests that there are plenty of businesses out there who haven’t checked their tariff for a while. If your contract has already ended, the likelihood is that you will have rolled onto a standard variable tariff which costs significantly more than the most competitive rate.

If you need help finding the best energy supplier for your business, The Energy Check is here to simplify the process. Get in touch today by calling 0191 691 18 02 or click here to start using our business energy comparison tool.

A back to basics guide to getting the best business energy deals

A back to basics guide to getting the best business energy deals

If you run a small business, read this guide to find out how you can save on your energy costs

Energy bills can be a major drain on any small business. Yet SME owners often overlook the fact that, just as with their home energy, switching supplier and tariff can be a quick way to reduce spending and lower overheads.

It’s worth noting that business energy tariffs tend to vary a lot more than domestic deals, and there is a lot more room for negotiation in some instances. With that in mind, let us introduce you to the best practices for finding the right business energy deal for you.

Why should you switch?

An investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority found that as many as 40% of businesses haven’t switched their energy supplier in the last five years. And an astonishing 39% have never switched at all! But depending on the size of your business, the savings achievable through switching can be huge.

On average, SMEs spend more than £5,000 on electricity and £4,000 on gas per year currently. If you think that your own energy costs may be higher than necessary, start by familiarising yourself with the different aspects of your current bills – including your unit rates and standing charge. This is important because your estimated annual costs may not give a truly accurate picture of what you should be paying.

How do you find the best price?

Comparing energy prices online with our comparison tool is the quickest and easiest way to explore a huge number of tariffs all in one place. It can give you a wider picture of the kind of prices you should be expecting to pay, while also highlighting any specific providers which you feel would suit your needs.

One of the key factors involved in getting the best business energy deal is to haggle. Ofgem rules make haggling over domestic energy deals impossible, but business energy deals can be tailored to suit your needs, so don’t be afraid to state exactly what you’re looking for.

The larger your business the more you can potentially gain from getting a tailored deal. That’s why we typically recommend that for those enterprises spending over £5,000 a year on energy, it is best to speak to book a call with one of our energy traders.

Can you get a fixed tariff?

If you are looking to fix yourself into a tariff for an extended period of time then many suppliers offer deals ranging from 1–3 years, although they can extend to 5 years in some cases. Longer fixed terms tend to be more expensive, but they can also protect you from future price rises – at least in terms of unit costs (remember that standing charges won’t be fixed here).

With so many different fixed and variable deals to choose from, speaking to an energy broker can be beneficial in helping you to secure the right contract.

What about a dual fuel tariff?

Unlike with domestic energy, dual fuel tariffs aren’t generally an option when it comes to business energy. You don’t tend to get tariffs which cover both electricity and gas, meaning you’ll need to look for separate quotes. So if you choose the same supplier for both services, you should ask whether you can get a little extra discount because of this.

If you secure your energy supply with The Energy Check, we’ll always work hard to negotiate a better rate for you.

What should you watch out for?

There are several things you should know when switching your business energy:

  • There isn’t usually a cooling off period after you sign a contract, so make sure you’re completely happy with your new deal before you do.
  • Choosing a business energy tariff means entering a contract, and you probably won’t be able to switch until that contract ends. So make sure it suits you in the long term.
  • Many deals will automatically renew after a certain period, so make sure you know when your contract is coming to an end so you can start hunting around and comparing prices elsewhere.

What if you work from home?

If you don’t work in a business premises, you probably won’t be able to get a business tariff. That is, unless a large portion of your energy use is for your business, usually around 50%.

If not, try switching your domestic energy provider instead and hunting down a better deal.

If you want to find a better energy deal for your business, start comparing with The Energy Check today. Click here to use our switching services and get an instant quote, or contact our team by calling 0191 691 18 02.

What does green energy supply mean and why is it relevant for your business?

What does green energy supply mean and why is it relevant for your business?

New green energy technologies are becoming more and more commonplace, but how green is green energy and what could it mean for your business?

As any entrepreneur will know, paying for energy is a significant overhead when running a business. So, finding the most efficient energy out there can be an important part of maintaining profitability. But in the modern day, many organisations feel a responsibility to do more than simply protect the bottom line – they also believe in the need to run an environmentally conscious business. And with good reason.

Businesses consume more than half (56%) of the UK’s total energy, contributing considerably to the country’s carbon emissions. Whether you’re in heavy industry or simply run a few laptops from a small office, it is always important to consider the impact you are having on the environment. One of the most common ways to tackle this issue head-on is to opt for a green energy tariff for your business.

But what exactly is green energy, and can it really help your business move forward on the journey to becoming more energy efficient?

What is green energy?

Green energy is that which is drawn from natural sources such as wind, sunlight, rain, plants, algae, tides and geothermal heat. Unlike fossil fuels – which take millions of years to develop and therefore diminish with continued use – these energy sources are renewable and naturally replenished.

The renewable energy sources also have a much smaller impact on the environment, as fossil fuels produce pollutants like greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Green energy aims to utilise energy sources that are readily available all over the world, through the installation of features like wind turbines and solar panels. Over time, it is hoped that greener energy sources will replace fossil fuels.

What types of green energy are there?

Two of the most common and well-known forms of green energy are solar power and wind power. Both of these rely on constant natural resources for heating, light and power. In fact, a study back in 2009 found that a network of 2.5-megawatt wind turbines operating at just 20% of their rated capacity could supply 40 times the current worldwide consumption of energy.

Other common green energy sources include hydropower, or hydroelectric power. This is generated by the Earth’s water cycle and can produce significant amounts of energy. China is currently the biggest generator of hydroelectric power, with two of the ten largest hydroelectric power stations in the world.

Geothermal energy is another important green energy source. The thermal energy beneath the Earth’s surface has been used for centuries for hot springs, but recently we’ve begun to understand ways to use it for generating electricity too.

Natural waste materials like wood waste and sawdust can also be used as a greener source of energy. These materials, known as biomass, can be burned without producing nearly as much greenhouse gases as fossil fuels, or else they can be transformed into fuels known as biofuels.

What does green energy mean for businesses and households?

As sustainability is such a growing area of concern in today’s society, you’ll find that most energy suppliers now offer green energy tariffs. These are tariffs designed to meet the demands for more efficient energy supply, and there are two main kind of green energy services to be aware of.

The first of these are green energy tariffs. Opting for this means that some or all of the electricity you pay for is matched by purchases of renewable energy made by your supplier on your behalf. Your supplier should let you know what sources are included in this, and exactly how much of your supply is renewable.

Some companies buy a mix of renewable and non-renewable energy but ensure that the former is at least as much as the latter. Other suppliers now advertise themselves as a 100% renewable supplier.

The second green service are green funds. This involves paying a premium that contributes to funding new renewable energy developments. So your existing energy supply continues as normal, but your involvement in the funds could help to address the balance of renewable and non-renewable energy sources in the future.

How green is green?

There’s no doubt that a green energy tariff is the more sustainable option for businesses trying to do their best for the environment. However, the subject isn’t completely free from debate.

For one thing, there is a lot of discussion about whether buying electricity from a green tariff means that your electricity is 100% renewable. All the renewable energy generated is connected to the grid, which is also true of non-renewable generation. We all draw electricity from this same pool.

The carbon content of mains electricity is calculated on this basis, so it is difficult for one user to claim they are using completely carbon-free electricity based on their supplier. Green tariffs are a useful way to reduce your business’s environmental impact. However, they should still be considered an addition to – rather than a substitute for – energy efficiency in the current market.

You should still do what you can to reduce your energy use and get into greener habits.

Why should small businesses consider a greener switch?

As we mentioned earlier, businesses are responsible for more than half of the UK’s energy consumption. So it’s important that every business looks for ways to reduce the energy it uses and considers more renewable sources. Green tariffs are one of the most accessible ways to do this.

Save on energy costs

The detrimental impact of fossil fuels has become more and more apparent over the past few decades, highlighting them as a limited, as well as damaging, source of energy. This has planted the need for more renewable sources of energy firmly in the spotlight of public consciousness.

But as well as being good for the planet, opting for a greener energy tariff can also be good for your business. Taking steps towards energy efficiency inevitably leads to lower gas and electricity costs, through factors like a healthier EPC. This helps to save your business money which you can then put into more proactive areas, be it marketing or staffing. Factors such as a better EPC can also increase the market value of your workplace, so you may see a better return should you choose to move elsewhere.

Improve your image

Making your business more sustainable can improve your overall image with consumers and the wider public. Consumers are now paying more attention than ever to a company’s impact on the environment, both positively and negatively. Research by Energy Star reveals that the most eco-friendly businesses and those associated with being more “environmentally responsible” achieve more positive responses from consumers than businesses which don’t do as much to stay green.

In fact, larger companies are now starting to recognise the efforts of other businesses. For example, Newsweek now releases annual rankings of the most eco-friendly companies. Switching to a greener tariff could be the vital first step in doing your bit as a business to help the environment, while also benefitting your brand overall.

If you’re looking to switch your energy supplier, The Energy Check can help. We compare tariffs from thousands of suppliers to find your business the very best deal. Start your search today by clicking here or give us a call on 0191 691 18 02.

Innovative SME energy solutions could be rewarded with £6 million in funding

Innovative SME energy solutions could be rewarded with £6 million in funding

A great idea deserves a great reward – that’s the thinking behind the announcement made by the government this spring.

No small business owner wants their organisation to consume more electricity than is absolutely necessary each month; nor do they enjoy the prospect of contributing to unnecessary CO2 emissions. And so it will be music to the ears of SMEs that steps are being taken to make it easier for them to improve energy efficiency.

In line with a number of proposals put forward recently by Chancellor, Philip Hammond, it was announced that up to £6 million of funding could be up for grabs to reward innovative solutions designed to encourage SMEs in commercial and industrial sectors to become more energy efficient.

The initiative comes in the form of a competition with the catchy title: Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency (BASEE) competition. And it’s expected to address many of the most troublesome issues faced by SMEs looking to conserve energy and reduce overheads. As part of the competition, applicants will be able to pitch for a share of the funding up until the competition deadline of the 8th May 2019.

This eye-catching and potentially lucrative competition forms part of the government’s overall efforts to improve energy efficiency within businesses by 20% by 2030. It also follows proposals for a new energy efficiency scheme for small businesses which could help to unlock as much as £2.5 billion a year in savings!

There are three main categories within the competition that applicants will need to consider. These are:

  • Business models that aim to standardise elements of the investment and simplify it
  • A new form of technical tool or solution to help boost efficiency. An example of this would be a platform that provides a standardised method of assessing and displaying potential savings from a portfolio of businesses. Alternatively, the platform might match potential businesses that want to improve energy efficiency in collaboration with other companies that already possess the necessary technologies
  • Any other innovative solutions that are designed to help facilitate investment in energy efficiency for SMEs

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, or BEIS, commented on the initiative’s potential, stating:

“The aim of the Boosting Accesses for SMEs to Energy Efficiency (BASEE) competition is to accelerate the growth of the energy services market for SMEs by driving down transaction costs and promoting third party investment in energy efficiency projects.”

BEIS go on to say that although SMEs already pay for a small number of energy efficiency measures with short pay back periods, “the evidence suggests that external finance will be required to deliver measures with longer pay back periods which are required if we are to meet the 2030 ambition. “The competition will make available £6 million of funding for new, innovative scalable business models or solutions that reduce costs, simplify processes and encourage the take up of energy efficiency by SMEs at scale.”

The first phase of the competition includes a detailed application stage when these potential projects will be reviewed, and the best ones will be carried forward to phase two. It is expected that up to 10 projects will be approved from the initial applications, each with a value of £100,000.

At the end of this second phase, the chosen projects will then have an opportunity to develop and submit applications for further funding. This is likely to award up to five projects a possible £1 million each.

Do you run a small business? Want to start implementing efficiency measures now?

One simple way to improve your energy efficiency is to make sure you choose the right supplier. The Energy Check can help you find the best commercial supplier for your business by comparing a huge number of tariffs all in one place. Get in touch today by calling 0191 69 18 02 or click here to start comparing.

Understanding the Agreed Supply Capacity to your business premises is key to keeping your electricity bills under control

Understanding the Agreed Supply Capacity to your business premises is key to keeping your electricity bills under control

Not sure how Agreed Supply Capacity works? Well, it could be one of the biggest unnecessary overheads your business is currently shelling out for.

It’s not always easy running a business. For those organisations with large premises, a substantial payroll and tricky customers, there’s often a never-ending list of headaches, or shall we say challenges, to negotiate.

And if your company is heavily reliant on energy (as most businesses are in the modern day) then those pesky overheads and running costs certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. If you are operating heavy machinery or running lots of electrical equipment, the chances are that your electricity and gas bills run into the thousands each year.

But did you know that simply opening and paying your energy bills without question could be costing you more than you need to pay – even if you’re with the most competitive supplier and make sure that you turn off the lights at night. Let us introduce you to Agreed Supply Capacity.

What is Agreed Supply Capacity or ASC?

The ASC is the amount of electricity that your Distribution Network Operator, or DNO, must provide to your supply at all times. A DNO is a company licensed to distribute electricity in the UK; there are six of these organisations operating across the country.

The ASC is sometimes simply referred to as Supply Capacity, or Authorised Supply Capacity. It is measured in kVA and typically charged monthly for Half Hourly Supplies as a non-commodity charge.

Your ASC is present on your electricity bill, usually under the Distribution use of System section. Here you’ll be able to see your total distribution charge and a breakdown of how much ASC is contributing to this cost.

So, why would I pay too much if my ASC is high?

It’s important to understand how ASC charging works in order to work out whether you are being charged too much for your electricity usage. In simple terms, you are charged for the energy that is reserved for your premises, whether you use all of your quota or not.

Just as you wouldn’t take out a phone contract with 1000 free minutes per month if you only typically utilise 100; it doesn’t make financial sense to agree a large supply capacity if your business is economical with its energy usage. Of course, the aim is to be as close to your actual energy usage as possible.

You could also be paying for ASC you are not using if you have moved your business to new premises where the charge was set by the previous occupant. In this instance, the charge would have been carried over automatically to your Supplier Agreement even if there had been a change of supplier.

For example, if the previous tenants worked in heavy industry and had 15 machines drawing energy for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, then you should be cautious about what your contract’s ASC contains if you plan to run just a few laptops and a kettle.

If you have (or plan to) take energy saving measures like turning off lights and installing more efficient services, this is great news. However, it may be undermined by the details of your contract. If this is the case, you’ll need to contact your DNO to switch to an ASC which better reflects your needs.

What charges are associated with going over your ASC?

As well as being charged too much for underutilising your ASC, you can also pay heavy surcharges for your ASC if you exceed your allowance.

If you have expanded your business activities on site without asking for the ASC to be increased, for instance, you may need to take a close look at your contract. These charges are referred to as ‘Excess Capacity’ charges and can cost a significant amount over time.

You only have one opportunity a year to change your ASC, and your DNO can reject a request to increase if it has an impact on other Suppliers in your area. This means any changes you make to your ASC should be considered carefully.

Has Agreed Supply Capacity got you scratching your head? Wish you could speak to some clever energy saving experts who can help you get your energy costs under control and on point? Get in touch with the friendly team here at The Energy Check today by calling 0191 691 18 02.

Ready to switch supplier and want to get things done in a flash? Try our online comparison tool Compare now

4 simple but effective ways to boost energy efficiency in your small business

4 simple but effective ways to boost energy efficiency in your small business

Don’t let energy costs become a drain on your business’s turnover

When you run a small business, every penny counts. Staying in a positive financial position is a daily battle that is faced by the majority of small businesses up and down the country. In fact, keeping a close eye on the day-to-day running costs like rent and utilities can be a crucial consideration when forecasting for the future.

From heating an office space to powering multiple electronic devices, it’s easy to let electricity and gas costs get out of hand, but keeping them in check is vital if you want to get the most out of your company’s efforts.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can keep a handle on business energy costs and improve efficiency in the process.

How much energy should a small business use?

Energy providers tend to calculate small business tariffs on a business-by-business basis because energy requirements can be markedly different depending on the size of an organisation, the kind of work being undertaken and the hours being worked by staff on the premises.

This can make it challenging for those running the businesses to know whether their company is energy efficient or not.

If you have been running for some time, comparing annual usage year on year is the obvious starting point. If your own usage has fluctuated significantly over time, think about what has changed to cause such patterns – longer opening hours or an increase in staff working at computers all day, for example. From here, you may be able to identify some obvious steps you can implement to lower your usage. An average estimate for small business energy usage is a maximum of 30,000 kWh for both gas and electricity. However, if your business is particularly small, this should be closer to 15,000 kWh.

You should also check your unit cost, as this will give you an idea of whether you’re being charged a lot for a typical amount of usage. Compare these unit costs to other providers to see how highly you rank.

How can you lower your energy usage?

Improving your business’s energy efficiency is the most effective way to lower your average business energy consumption. And there are several straightforward ways to make an initial saving. Here are a few:

1. Make time for energy audits

Start by making a list of all the appliances used regularly at your business, then consider if they need to be turned on for the length of time you have them currently running each day. Next, check whether the lighting at your premises uses new energy efficient bulbs, such as LEDs, or more traditional filament bulbs.

2. Stay on top of your heating

Heating systems and air conditioning units are among the most expensive features of an office. But by introducing timed thermostat you can program them to switch off during unnecessary periods, such as over the weekend.

3. Complete regular meter readings

Meter readings are used by all energy providers to calculate how much energy your business is using. If they don’t have accurate readings, they’ll simply estimate them, and this can lead to you paying more than you need to. Most companies allow you to enter your readings online, so be sure to check them regularly.

4. Make your staff aware

It’s impossible to master energy efficiency on a business scale when acting alone. It needs to be a team effort, which is why you should ensure that they are aware of energy costs in order to inspire them to be more responsible. Little changes like always switching off monitors and plugs, closing doors and windows and switching off lights in unused rooms can make a big difference over time.

Finding the right energy supplier is another crucial step to improving your efficiency. Taking the time to switch your energy to a more suitable deal could lead to significant savings for your business in the long run. If you’re thinking of changing your supplier, let The Energy Check help you. Click here to find out more or call us on 0191 691 18 02.

New energy reporting requirements for large businesses set to launch in April

The Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting scheme will come into effect from 1st April. Here’s everything your business needs to know

The Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) scheme is a government initiative set to replace the soon to be scrapped Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) for businesses on 1st April 2019.

This implementation will follow the recent news from Phillip Hammond’s Spring Statement announcing a call for evidence to potentially save SMEs up to £2.5 billion a year in energy costs.

What is SECR?

Simply put, SECR is an extension of current Mandatory Greenhouse Gas (MGHG) reporting. It is an annual reporting requirement for organisations, in which they must disclose their energy consumption and carbon emissions relating to their use of electricity, gas and transport. SECR promises to be simpler than the current CRC scheme, although much of the criteria is similar. Proposed key features of SECR include:

  • Eligible unquoted companies will be required to report their UK energy use and associated emissions, alongside an intensity metric. Energy use for unquoted companies covers electricity, gas and transport as a minimum.
  • UK quoted companies will continue to be required to disclose Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, with Scope 3 optional, as well as an intensity metric.
  • Quoted companies will also have to report on global energy use.
  • Following the first year of qualification, companies will also have to publish the previous year’s emissions and energy use alongside their latest figures.
  • A narrative commentary on action taken over the last year to improve energy efficiency will also be required. It is not necessary to disclose ESOS recommendations, and as some information can be sensitive, there is an exemption from disclosing information which would be prejudicial to the interests of the company.
  • Businesses covered in a parent company’s report will not be required to report themselves.

Who will be affected by SECR?

SECR is outlined as being a scheme that has significant impact on “large businesses”. What this means is that organisations that are a classed as a UK Quoted Company (MGHG) will need to report, as well as UK listed companies featuring at least two of the following:

  • 250 or more employees
  • A turnover of £36 million or more
  • A balance sheet total of at least £18 million

SECR also affects most companies currently covered by ESOS legislation. This means that, although most ESOS participants do not currently participate in CRC, SECR will impose annual energy and carbon reporting on a large number of businesses who until now have only been involved in the 4-yearly ESOS cycle.

As such, SECR is set to impact far more companies than previous mandatory reporting schemes. Upwards of 11,900 UK companies will need to comply, compared to just 4,000 under CRC and 1,200 under the current Greenhouse Gas Emissions reporting scheme.

Timeline of events

On 31st March 2019, the current CRC scheme will end. Following this, SECR is due to commence from 1st April 2019 and will apply to all Large Undertakings.

Despite the termination of the CRC scheme, CRC reporting for the 2018/19 year will still be due by 31st July 2019. Then, on 1st April 2020, the first SECR reporting will be due. Your business’s will be required following your first full financial year under SECR, so 1st April 2020 will be the earliest date that you’ll need to submit your report.

If you want to find out more about your energy reporting requirements as a business, or you’d like to find out more about saving on your energy costs, contact The Energy Check today. Simply click here or call us on 0191 691 18 02.

Putting our energy into making things awesome for you the customer

Putting our energy into making things awesome for you the customer

Hard work is in our nature at The Energy Check and we like to think that we’re up to any challenge – lifting heavy stuff, climbing tall things, making customers happy … that kind of jazz. So, when somebody suggested back in February 2018 that we should prove to our customers that we’re taking every measure to maintain the highest standards, we said: “hold our coats; we’ve got this covered.”

And so began our journey to achieving the ISO9001 standard. For those who aren’t aware of what ISO9001 certification means, it can be defined as:

“The international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system. Organisations use the standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.”

Basically, it’s a benchmark for being good at what we say we’re good at!

Of the many hoops to jump through, we had to demonstrate that we’ve got processes and procedures for every eventuality. And, we needed to show auditors that we’ll always continue to perform well under any circumstance.

Thanks to plenty of hard work and more than a little bit of form filling, we officially became ISO9001 certified in March and the team responsible for driving the project celebrated the achievement at an Institute of Directors event held at the Sage Gateshead. [Lovely bunch, aren’t they?]

What does ISO9001 mean for you?

Well, for many businesses and households looking to get the best deal on their energy contract, this certification simply means that working with us gives that bit extra peace of mind. Knowing that we hold ourselves to the highest standards for systems management – basically, dotting every “I” and crossing every “T” we can find so that your life is made easier.

To large organisations and public sector bodies, however, our ISO9001 certification is a fundamental requirement that enables them to work with us. And the fact that we’ve gained our accreditation through UKAS (one of the most reputable assessment bodies) means that our standards are recognised on both a national and international basis.

What’s next for us? Well, we’ve decided that we really like getting certificates! So, plans are already in place to achieve ISO18001, ISO50001 and ISO27001 over the coming months and years.

Watch this space.

If you believe you are safe in a fixed energy contract you could be in for a nasty surprise

If you believe you are safe in a fixed energy contract you could be in for a nasty surprise

Beware the small print: hidden charges and subtle contract clauses often mean that your energy bills can fluctuate – even if your deal claims to be “fixed”.

Whether it’s a mortgage or a utility bill, millions of us prefer to choose “fixed term” deals when we enter into contracts with suppliers and providers. While a fixed contract may mean that we miss out on any potential savings when costs go down – such as interest rates or oil prices – locking in a contract does help to provide peace of mind. After all, without this security we may be left helpless when costs begin to creep up.

For business owners the benefits of fixed contracts often outweigh the negatives, as it makes forecasting for the future significantly easier. In fact, many of the finance and procurement teams I have spoken to about their utilities state that having this level of security in place is crucially important to their business.

Unfortunately for these organisations, the truth is that a so-called “fixed contract” can often hide significant fluctuations once you look past the headline figures. Look at the small print of your energy contract and there are a number of charges that may bring unwanted costs to your business.

Non-commodity charges

The Climate Change Levy

There are numerous external charges your business should be aware of within any energy contract, including taxes and levies imposed in relation to the supply of electricity and gas. Among these is the Climate Change Levy, which, as you may be aware, is set to increase for businesses in April 2019.

The Climate Change Levy is designed to incentivise companies to become more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions related to business activities. And while it makes up a relatively small percentage of an organisation’s overall energy costs, there are changes coming into play in April 2019 that may nevertheless have a significant impact on your bottom line.

From April, the levy on energy will increase by 45% for electricity and 67% for gas. This shouldn’t be a cause for most businesses to panic as CCL will still only account for roughly 2.5% of the overall electricity bill, but this is just one of many charges which could increase on your “fixed contract”.

Delivering energy

Another charge that can change within a contract is the charge for delivering energy to your premises. These are termed the Transmission and Distribution Charges and it pays for National Grid and your local DNO (i.e. Northern Powergrid) to provide the infrastructure to allow electricity to arrive at your home or business. While you may think that this is just part and parcel of the service you pay for via your supplier on a fixed contract basis, many contracts include clauses that enable them to make changes if those costs are increased by National Grid or the DNO. After all, the Supplier doesn’t want any increases to cut into their profit margins!

There are published forecasts for Transmission charges (the cost of getting electricity from the Generator via the National Grid to your local Distribution Network Operator), which we currently expect to increase by around a 30% over the coming years. There are many ‘fixed’ energy contracts out there which only allow a 6% tolerance on Transmission Network Use of System charges. Should they exceed these tolerances, customers risk a supplier revisiting these charges and increasing a business’s bills.

Some suppliers will provide a p/kWh levelisation figure for various charges. If this figure is surpassed then they’ll pass on those additional fees. What does that mean in reality? Well, a recent example I’ve seen had Balancing Use of System, Renewal Obligation and Feed In Tariffs (all charges which are possibly hidden in your unit rate) at a forecasted rate of 2.36p/kWh. Yet there are forecasts showing this rising to 2.852p/kWh in the near future – an additional 0.5p/kWh.

That may not sound like a large number but when we take into account the transmission charges and CCL increases, it’s starting to rack up!

Estimated consumptions may come back to bite you

If you’re on a half-hourly meter, there is always a risk associated with a supplier taking you on as a new customer. They don’t know what your energy consumption is going to be and can only work on best estimates from your previous years usage. If you use too little or too much, the supplier becomes exposed to additional charges for selling the electricity back to the grid or for purchasing additional energy at an increased rate.

But surely the supplier takes on this risk in a fixed contract?

I’m afraid not in all cases. Typically, there is a contract clause, normally termed the volume tolerance clause, that allows them to recover those costs should you not utilise your forecasted energy consumption as expected. The tolerance is typically +/- 10%. Be wary of this clause if you’re unsure how much energy you will use or have plans to substantially reduce/change your energy requirements.

The energy price is vulnerable

One thing that we all fear – both as consumers and suppliers – is a dramatic shift in the wholesale price of energy. Of course, we feel the change most keenly at the petrol pumps where we can see changes on a regular basis in bright lights. Whether it is political uncertainty, a breakdown in infrastructure or an accident such as an oil spillage, there are many factors that can influence energy costs.

Again, you would expect that as a fixed contract customer your supplier has weighed up this risk and calculated your business or domestic energy prices accordingly. But the truth is that some suppliers still include contract clauses that enable them to change the Contract Price if the wholesale price goes up by a certain percentage – usually 25%. But is it likely to happen?

Over the course of a contract with your energy supplier it is unlikely to see such a huge increase in a short period. However, with such uncertainty in the world currently it is important that both businesses and households are aware that price changes are possible.

So fixed doesn’t always mean fixed. What should I do?

It may sound like obvious advice but it is always important to review the terms and conditions of your utility contracts in detail. Fixed contracts can hide some nasty surprises. A possible option is to opt instead for a Pass-through contract if you’re a half-hourly metered customer, which breaks down all of the non-commodity charges and helps businesses to understand precisely what can and cannot change during the lifetime of a contract.

But it is worth pointing out that just because there are clauses mentioned in your contract doesn’t mean the supplier will automatically enforce them. And with the help of an energy consultant you can work with suppliers to get a wholly transparent deal that offers you genuine security.

If you want to ensure that unforeseen energy costs don’t creep up on you and upset your financial forecasts, the team here at The Energy Check can help you every step of the way. As I have often said, it isn’t always about switching from tariff to tariff – often it is about understanding how you are being charged for your energy and what can be done to manage costs and consumption in both the short and long term.

Get in touch with the team here.

New scheme could potentially offer up to £2.5 billion a year in energy savings for small businesses

New scheme could potentially offer up to £2.5 billion a year in energy savings for small businesses

The launch of the government’s new Business Energy Efficiency Scheme is good news for SMEs hoping to save on energy costs

An announcement by the government has introduced a new energy efficiency scheme which could help to unlock up to £2.5 billion a year in savings for small businesses, as well as improve environmental performance, in what has been described as a “win-win” for SMEs.

During his Spring Statement on Wednesday 13th March, chancellor Phillip Hammond called for evidence from SMEs, energy companies, network operators, financial institutions, Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), Local Enterprise Partnerships and academics to inform a number of proposals for a new Business Energy Efficiency Scheme focused on SMEs. This invitation for evidence for the new scheme will be open until 8th May 2019.

The new scheme has been designed to significantly lower the energy costs faced by small and medium enterprises. This is expected to help the government take a meaningful step forward in their target to ensure that businesses hit energy efficiency targets of at least 20% by 2030.

Currently, small and medium-sized enterprises account for upwards of 99% of all businesses in the UK. However, they are reported to have, on average, a “very low awareness” of the benefits of energy efficiency both in terms of saving costs and lowering their brand’s carbon footprint. It is thought that a lack of readily available information on the subject, as well as limited access to finance is largely responsible for this lack of awareness. The upfront costs involved in installing some energy saving measures is also thought to prevent many small or new business to miss out on long term savings.

Potential strategies for the new government scheme are already being put forward. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has proposed three possible options for the Business Energy Efficiency Scheme. These consist of:

  • The implementation of energy efficiency auctions. This could see the government setting up a voluntary auction which aims to target measures for smaller companies. They would compete on the basis of price with the goal of winning funding to deliver energy savings.
  • The implementation of a Business Energy Efficiency Obligation, or a Business form of the ECO scheme. The domestic ECO scheme requires suppliers to fund the installation of energy saving measures within households. This proposal could see a business equivalent of the scheme being set up. Through this scheme, an obligated party would be required to deliver a set amount of energy savings to a small business through the introduction of measures such as insulation.
  • The expansion of SME access to finance options. This could see the government exploring the possibility of support from outside financial institutions or partner organisations, in order to provide as many options as possible for small businesses looking to improve their energy performance.

Proposals such as these could see SMEs making significant long-term savings on their energy costs. Not only that, but it could help to make the UK’s small business landscape increasingly greener in the coming years.

A spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commented on the proposed scheme, saying: _ “Through the modern Industrial Strategy, we’re creating the right conditions for small businesses to thrive and exploiting the global shift to clean growth.

“These proposals could help firms from hairdressers to pubs save up to a total of £2.5 billion a year on their energy bills through energy efficiency measures while reducing emissions — a win-win for the environment and the UK’s dedicated entrepreneurs.”_

Looking to switch your business’s energy supplier and save on costs? Let The Energy Check help you make the right choice.

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