I’ve finally managed to switch electricity suppliers! It’s been a long journey, and I described some of the background in my previous post. In this post, I’m giving an update on my journey, I’ve written a guide on how to follow in my footsteps, and I’ve added a few more practical thoughts related to these meters.
As I mentioned in my previous post, suppliers other than scottish power are only required to offer me single rate tariffs: meaning I’d be unable to take advantage of cheap night time electricity for my space and water heating. Even in light of this, my scottishpower tariff is so expensive that this still works out cheaper than staying with them. The company I ended up switching to was Octopus: simply because they were the cheapest “big name” supplier for a single-rate tariff with my ~5300kWh/year usage. This turned out to be a good choice, as they did an amazing job of supporting me with my switch.
I initiated the switch using MSE’s cheap energy club and then emailed them immediately to make sure they had all the relevant information about my meter (both of the MPANs) and check that they’ll only be charging a single standing charge. They initially told me they’d be doubling my standing charge on account of my dual MPANs, but I cited the “Energy Market Investigation (Restricted Meters) Order 2016” and I never heard anything about the notion of doubling my standing charge again.
Once I got talking to Lucas at Octopus, I was surprised that he was able to offer me a 2-rate tariff. I was delighted at this since it means I can save a lot more money than I was ever expecting! The switch took a little bit longer than it should have done because of problems with the MPANs not being switched at the same time and scottishpower objecting because of this, but I think lessons were learned and this is all ironed out now.
Unlike on scottishpower, my octopus account shows my two MPANs as if they’re separate meters:
One MPAN works exactly as if it were an economy 7 meter, taking two meter readings (my day and night rate readings). The other MPAN also shows as being on the dual-rate tariff but I only submit one reading for it: my control reading, which gets charged on the night rate. I’m actually getting billed separate standing charges for each MPAN, but I was credited with a year’s worth of standing charges upfront so one standing charge is effectively zero. I haven’t been with them long enough yet to have received a bill, but when I submit meter readings my account balance gets reduced by the correct amount, so it seems like their billing is working fine! Since it’s the middle of summer, I haven’t used any control rate electricity though, so I can’t test that yet.
I’m really pleased with the outcome of this – I was never expecting to be able to escape scottishpower so this is a huge relief. I hope this information helps other people to make a choice with their restricted meters. Octopus have gone above and beyond their duty: all that Ofgem require of them is to offer me a single-rate tariff. I doubt it’s been worth their time and expenditure dealing with me, yet they’ve put me on a fair, dual-rate tariff which they had no obligation to do. The overhead of managing my meter probably outweighs any profit they’ll make from selling me electricity, but I think this is the fair thing to do: for suppliers to take the hit on the overhead associated with legacy infrastructure rather than this being passed to unwitting customers. I hope Ofgem make changes to reflect this in regulation and improve choice for us in the longer term.
Guide to Switching
This guide applies to anyone on exactly the same kind of meter as me: Scottish Power Comfort Plus White Meter. Please feel free to try it with any other restricted metering infrastructure and let me know how you get on! I know of someone else trying this with an SSE THTC meter now too.
- Bring your account up to date and in credit with Scottish Power. They may object to your switch if your account is in debt so submit a meter reading and, if you can, make a card payment to put your account comfortably in credit. This may be easier said than done in these times, but reducing the debt may still help if you’re able. Bear in mind that you might not get any credit balance refunded for up to 11 weeks from when you start your switch, so budget for being without the money for that time.
- Decide whether you want a single-rate or dual-rate tariff. If more than half of your electricity is on your night or control rate, a dual rate is probably preferable. Check your scottish power bill and you should have a summary of your annual usage. You can see mine at the end of this section, for example. My night+control rate summed together are 1892+2124=4016 – way higher than my day rate of 1348. So in my case, a dual rate tariff was definitely the right choice
- Decide which supplier you want to choose. Long story short, I’d recommend choosing Octopus. Admittedly, I do stand to gain if you use my referral code further down, but even if this weren’t the case, I still think they’re probably the easiest supplier to deal with if you have a restricted meter. Their rates are very competitive at the moment too. If you’ve decided you want a dual-rate tariff, as far as I’m aware the only option at the moment is Octopus. It might be worth comparing other suppliers’ economy 7 tariffs and asking them if they’ll supply your meter and with what charges, but be prepared for disappointment! If you’ve chosen a single rate tariff, you’re theoretically able to use any supplier, except for some smaller suppliers. You might want to compare suppliers using a tool like cheap energy club. Make sure to choose “show only big-name suppliers”, because this will exclude the ones who are too small to be required to take on your meter. Theoretically, your switch should be seamless but it’s likely you’ll have to contact them to confirm that you do indeed want their single rate tariff, and to make sure that they transfer both of your MPANs without charging the standing charge twice. Because of all of this, you might prefer to choose Octopus even if you want a single-rate tariff.
- If you’ve decided you want to switch to Octopus, it’s best to email them since a restricted meter switch will require some manual intervention on their end. Hopefully it should all be seamless for you though! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for Lucas – he dealt with all the quirks of my meter and he’s probably now Octopus’ expert on restricted meters! Tell him Alec Wright sent you and quote my referral code: quiet-sky-905 – that way we’ll both get £50 of free credit! They’ll need your name and address to start the switch.
- Submit your initial meter readings with your new supplier as soon as they ask you for them, to maximise your savings
Other Things to Consider
A few other things you might want to consider when selecting a supplier or tariff, or after you’ve switched:
- If you’re asking for a dual-rate tariff, you’re relying on the willingness of the new supplier to support this. As far as I’m aware, no supplier is obliged to do so. If you don’t stand to gain much from a dual-rate tariff, you might find it easier just to just choose a single rate.
- Consider how you might change your energy usage. If you’re on a Comfort Plus White meter tariff as I was previously, chances are you use most of your electricity at night since the rates strongly incentivise this. But maybe if you were on a single rate tariff you’d be able to reduce your consumption, and slightly offset the loss of a cheap night rate? For example, maybe you often find your storage heaters are wasting a lot of energy heating your home when you don’t need it? If so, perhaps you could stop using your storage heaters and switch on a plug-in heater as you need it instead. Or maybe you’re heating a full tank of hot water overnight then finding that you don’t need it all? Maybe stop running your immersion heater overnight and just hit “boost” when you need some water. While this is all generally bad advice if you’re able to get 2-rate electricity, you might decide that the hassle of securing a 2-rate tariff outweighs the savings. Before I found I could get a 2-rate tariff, I was planning to do all of these things and decommission my storage heaters!
- Something I haven’t looked in to yet is whether the process of a meter change is easier after switching. I wouldn’t rely on this but once you’ve switched, it’s probably a good idea to discuss with your new supplier about the possibility of changing your meter to a more standard one. If you can do this, it will probably make switching easier next time. There’s a risk of this being difficult if you’re renting but it may be possible – especially if the replacement is also a smart meter, as I don’t think it’s possible for a landlord to object to a tenant getting a “dumb” meter being replaced with a smart meter.
All of this restricted metering nonsense has consumed a lot more of my time and energy than I’d expected. I think I’m about to wrap this project, but before I do I’m going to contact an organisation or two to try and “pass the baton” in terms of looking out for restricted metering customers. I hope what I’ve discovered helps someone else follow in my footsteps and raises more awareness of the struggles associated with these meters. If anyone else tries this approach, I’d be interested to hear how you get on!