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Energy jargon buster

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Your handy gas and electricity glossary.

energy concept

Do you find that the world of energy is awash with impenetrable jargon? If so, you’re not the only one. This is why we’ve put together a glossary of commonly-used terms, which should hopefully clear things up for you.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |


A

Account number

Your unique number which your supplier can use to identify your details. You will be asked to provide this when you contact your supplier.

Actual reading (A)

This features on your bill, and indicates that your meter reading has been read and recorded – as opposed to the supplier estimating your reading. Sometimes shown as ‘C’ (customer reading).

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B

Best Buy

A best buy tariff is what is considered to be the best on the market, based on industry-standard assumptions of average consumption over a year. The competing tariffs are usually represented in a tabular format, like a league table. Such best buy tables should be used as a guide only, as the assumptions involved may not necessarily apply to you.

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C

CAC (Cash And Cheque)

This is a payment method whereby the customer pays on receipt of the bill.

CV (Calorific Value)

This is a scientific term used to describe the amount of heat generated per volume of gas that is burned away. The CV for your area should be displayed on your bill.

Cancellation fees

Some energy tariffs (usually those that are fixed or capped until a set date) carry cancellation fees, which you will be obliged to pay if you choose to leave the tariff before the specified date.

Capped tariff

This type of tariff has an upper limit that will not be exceeded until the specified term date. Prices can go down, but can’t go up.

Consumer Focus

Consumer Focus is an organisation which works to secure a fair deal for the consumer. Confused.com is accredited by Consumer Focus, meaning we meet their Code of Practice – an assurance that customers are given impartial and accurate advice.

Consumption

Your consumption is the amount of energy you use. In the energy world, this is represented by the number of kilowatt hours (kWh).

Cooling-off period

With many agreements, you are entitled to a cooling-off period whereby you are given a number of days (usually 14) during which you are entitled to change your mind without any repercussions.

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D

Deregulation

Prior to the 1990s, everyone’s gas was supplied by British Gas, and electricity was supplied by the ‘incumbent’ electricity supplier. It was then decided that to promote competition and encourage price competitiveness, the market would be deregulated - i.e. governmental control would be removed to allow a free and efficient marketplace.

Discounts

Most suppliers offer you various discounts such as loyalty discounts, discounts for paying by Direct Debit, and for choosing to receive both gas and electricity from the same supplier.

Dual Fuel

Suppliers offer Dual Fuel plans for customers who choose to receive both their gas and electricity from them. Dual Fuel plans usually offer discounts or incentives.

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E

Economy 7

Economy 7 meters measure the amount of electricity used at night separately from the amount used in the daytime. If you use most of your electricity at night, this kind of meter may be worthwhile as the ‘night rate’ is cheaper than the ‘day rate’.Go here to find out more about Economy 7.

Economy 10

The Economy 10 meter charges discounted prices for 10 set off-peak hours - typically 3 hours in the afternoon, 2 in the evening and 5 hours overnight. Unfortunately, we’re not able to support Economy 10 switching on Confused.com.

Estimated reading (E)

An estimated reading on your bill is used if your supplier has been unable to obtain an actual meter reading. The estimate could be under or over your actual usage, which is why it’s very important to read your meter regularly.

Energy

When people in the industry use the term energy, they mean your gas and electricity; i.e. what’s used to power your home and your appliances.

Energy efficiency

When we talk about energy efficiency we mean how much of your energy is used productively, and not wasted. For example, if you are making one cup of tea and yet you boil a full kettle, since it takes more energy to boil an entire kettle, you will have wasted some energy.

Read our guide on how to reduce energy usage around your home.

Energy supplier

An energy supplier is the company which provides your property with gas and/or electricity.

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F

Fixed monthly Direct Debit

There are several ways to pay for your energy, one of which is by fixed monthly Direct Debit. This means that you pay the energy company a fixed amount that is automatically taken from your bank account. After a year, your annual consumption will be reviewed and your Direct Debit amount adjusted accordingly.

Fixed rate tariff

A fixed rate tariff means that the amount you pay per unit of usage (unit rates) will be fixed for a set period of time. This type of tariff is very popular during periods of time when prices are rising, but will not be such an attractive deal when prices are falling.

Fuel mix

This is the mix of fuels that are included in the energy you receive (coal, natural gas, nuclear, renewable and ‘other’). Confused.com provides details of each supplier’s fuel mix so you can make an informed decision about where you receive your energy from.

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G

Green Tariff

This is a tariff that allows you to contribute to environmental health, as some of the money you pay results in either the purchase or generation of energy from renewable sources, or monies being dedicated to environmental funds. Confused.com allows you to filter your results to show Green tariffs only, if you so choose.

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H

High user

Ofgem (the gas and electricity market regulator) have outlined standard consumption values for categories of users which suppliers and industry bods use to base their calculations. As a high user you are considered to use 4,950 kWh of electricity in a year, and 28,000 kWh of gas.

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I

IGT (Independent Gas Transfer) Network

This is an independent company who look after a gas supply network that is not connected to the National Grid. Some suppliers will charge you an additional amount if your gas is supplied by an IGT rather than the mains gas network. If your MPRN number is 10 digits long and starts with a 74 or 75, you’re supplied by an IGT.

Incumbent supplier

Before deregulation of the industry, all the electricity in your area was supplied by one company – this is your incumbent supplier. They’re also sometimes known as the ‘host supplier’.

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K

kWh (kilowatt hour)

This is the unit of measurement for gas and electricity consumption. The number of kWh you have used within a given period will be shown on your bill, and you will be charged for each of these units. If you know the number of kWh you use annually, this is the most accurate way to obtain a quote before switching suppliers.

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L

Low user

Ofgem (the gas and electricity market regulator) have outlined standard consumption values for categories of users which suppliers and industry bods use to base their calculations. As a low user you are considered to use 1,650 kWh of electricity in a year, and 10,000 kWh of gas.

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M

MDD (Monthly Direct Debit)

This is a payment method whereby the customer pays a fixed monthly amount for their energy. Suppliers offer discounts to customers who pay this way.

Medium user

Ofgem (the gas and electricity market regulator) have outlined standard consumption values for categories of users which suppliers and industry bods use to base their calculations. As a medium user you are considered to use 3,300 kWh of electricity in a year, and 20,500 kWh of gas. The ‘medium user’ consumption values are the values used to create the ‘Best Buy’ tables.

Meter reading

You need to read your gas and electricity meters regularly to ensure that your supplier is billing you correctly. If your supplier is not able to obtain an accurate reading, they will estimate your usage resulting in either under-billing or over-billing. If you are being under-billed, whilst this may seem great at the time, you will lose out in the long run as you will eventually have to pay for the energy you’ve used.

Read our guide to reading your meter.

MPAN (Meter Point Administration Number)

Your MPAN is the unique identifying number for the electricity supply at your property. Your MPAN is commonly referred to as a ‘Supply Number’ or ‘S’ number, and it can be found on your electricity bill. If you switch energy through Confused.com, we can automatically find out your MPAN for you - therefore you can get a quote without the need to refer to bills or pieces of paper from your existing supplier.

If you find that you need your ‘S’ number, but can't locate it, you should contact your current electricity supplier who will be able to tell you.

MPRN (Meter Point Reference Number)

Your MPRN is the unique identifying number for the gas supply at your property. Your MPRN is a ten digit number, commonly referred to as an ‘M’ number, and can be found on your gas bill. If you switch energy through Confused.com, we can automatically find out your MPRN for you - therefore you can get a quote without the need to refer to bills or pieces of paper from your existing supplier.

If you find that you need your MPRN, but can't locate it, you can call the Meter Number Helpline on 0870 608 1524. You will not need this number to change energy supplier, although some suppliers may ask for it as a method of identifying who you are.

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N

National Grid

The National Grid is the company responsible for our homes receiving energy. It’s responsible for the network of transmitters and pipes around the company.

NSC (No standing charge)

Some tariffs include a standing charge, which is a fixed daily charge for the energy that is being supplied to your property regardless of your consumption. A NSC tariff means you are paying for what you use only. This type of tariff is beneficial if your property is left empty for long periods of time.

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O

Ofgem (Office of Gas & Electricity Markets)

Ofgem was formed in 1999, and is the regulatory body for the energy industry. It monitors the industry – promoting fair competition, ensuring environmental targets are met, and protecting the interests of consumers.

Off-mains discount

Quite a few newly-built homes do not need a gas supply. If you do not use gas at your property, you will not be entitled to a ‘Dual Fuel discount’. In response to this, some suppliers allow customers a small discount to compensate.

Online tariff

An online tariff is a tariff that is managed online. You are able to provide meter readings, view bills, and deal with customer services all through the internet. As a result you will receive greater discounts, hence online tariffs are now the most competitive on the market.

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P

Pay on receipt of bill

This is when you pay for your gas and electricity by cash or cheque on receipt of your bill. This is one of the most expensive payment methods, and it’s worth setting up a Direct Debit so you can benefit from discounts.

Pay a year in advance

With this payment method you pay for your energy a year in advance, based on an estimated level of consumption. At the end of each year, your actual usage is assessed, and any overpayment or underpayment is accounted for. Suppliers will usually offer discounted rates for paying in advance.

PES (Public Electricity Supplier)

This is another way of describing your ‘incumbent’ or ‘host’ electricity supplier.

Prepayment meter

This is a type of meter which essentially works like ‘pay-as-you-go’ for your energy. Your meter has a card or key fob registered to it, which you then ‘top up’ much like you would with your mobile phone. This is the most expensive way to pay for your energy.

Prompt pay discounts

Some suppliers will offer customers a discount for paying their bill within a set period of time.

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Q

QDD (Quarterly Direct Debit)

Quarterly Direct Debit does what it says on the tin... This is when the customer pays their bills by Direct Debit, every quarter.

Quarterly bills

Most suppliers will send you a statement every 3 months (i.e. quarterly) regardless of whether you pay for your energy in advance, monthly or quarterly.

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S

Single fuel

This term us used when referring to gas or electricity on its own, as opposed to ‘dual fuel’.

Single rate meter

This is the most common type of meter. It simply records the total number of kWh you use each day, without taking into account what you are using at night (as with an Economy 7 meter for example).

Smart meter

Smart meters are relatively new. These digital devices take automatic readings of your energy usage and send the readings electronically to your energy company. This allows for 100% accurate bills instead of estimated billing.

Social tariff

All suppliers are obliged to offer what’s known as a social tariff. This tariff should be equal to their cheapest available tariff regardless of payment methods and so on. These tariffs are aimed consumers who are considered to be in fuel poverty (spending more than 10% of their income on their energy bills), those on benefits, the elderly and the disabled.

Special needs priority

Suppliers need to be aware if you have any special needs that may cause distress in the event of a power cut. They may be able to offer additional help and support to help these customers through.

Standard tariff

All suppliers offer their standard tariff, which essentially means there are no ‘frills’ such as discounts or fixed/capped price periods. Standard tariffs are usually the suppliers’ most expensive tariff, and should probably be avoided. Switch to their best online tariff instead.

Standing Charge

Some tariffs include a standing charge - which is a fixed daily charge for the energy that is being supplied to your property regardless of your consumption.

Supplier

A supplier is the company who provides your gas and/or electricity.

Supply number (S)

Your ‘S’ number is your MPAN (see above). MPAN is the unique identifying number for the electricity supply at your property. Your MPAN is commonly referred to as a supply number or ‘S’ number, and it can be found on your electricity bill. If you switch energy through Confused.com, we can automatically find out your MPAN for you - therefore you can get a quote without the need to refer to bills or pieces of paper from your existing supplier.

Switch

By switch we mean changing your energy supplier so that you receive your gas and/or electricity from another company; or alternatively you might just change tariff, and hence stay with the same supplier but be charged new rates. When you switch suppliers, the actual supply to your home will not be affected - i.e. there’s no break in service when you don’t get your energy. The only difference you notice will be on your bills.

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T

Tariff

A tariff in the energy world is basically your ‘plan’ – or the rates you are being charged per unit of energy consumed. Just as you pay a set amount per minute on your phone, you pay a set amount per unit of gas or electricity used in your home.

Tiers

Some suppliers will charge you one rate for all the energy you use; however others will use tiers. This is basically a level of consumption. So, for example, your supplier might charge you 5 pence per unit of electricity you use until you’ve used 100 units of electricity, and then 7 pence for any units you’ve used above this amount.

Tracker tariffs

Tracker tariffs are tariffs that ‘track’ below a specified rate, usually the suppliers’ standard prices. For example, a supplier might say they will ‘track 5% below our standard prices’. These types of tariff usually ‘track’ for a set amount of time and have exit fees attached.

Transco

Transco plc became National Grid plc in 2005, and were the company in charge of transporting energy throughout the UK. If your gas is not transported by IGT (Independent Gas Transfer), it’s carried by the National Grid – formerly Transco.

Transfer process

This is the procedure that takes place when you decide to switch suppliers.

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U

Unit rate

This is the price you are charged for each unit of energy (kWh) you use. Depending on your tariff, you may be charged one set price for each kWh, or have two rates – a higher rate up to a certain threshold, and a lower rate thereafter.

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V

Variable direct debit

This is a payment method where you pay for what you use rather than a set amount each month. With a variable direct debit, the amount you pay will vary each month (or quarter), and it’s likely to be substantially higher during the winter months. If you are on tight budget and like to know your monthly outgoings, you’d be better off sticking to a fixed monthly direct debit plan.

Volume correction factor

The volume correction factor is a number used by the suppliers to take into account the changes in volume of gas – based on temperature and pressure – in order to calculate the number of kWh you’ve used.

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