Need expat info for Great Britain?
Gas and Electricity in the UK
Most energy in the UK is produced from fossil fuels and nuclear power plants. As the British mining industry has decreased drastically in importance for the economy of the UK since the 1980s, natural gas is the single most important energy source right now.
However, due to ongoing attempts to reduce carbon emissions and increase safety standards for nuclear reactors, several power plants in the UK might soon become outdated and rife for closure. This prognosis has given rise to a discussion about an impending “energy gap”, where demand will soon exceed supply in a few years’ time.
For the average customer, though, not that much has changed. Two trends might become relevant when you want to provide a new home in the UK with electricity and gas.
Time to Go Green?
Firstly, the privatization of the energy market has caused a proliferation of energy suppliers and tariffs to emerge. The development of prices for electricity and gas is under constant supervision from Ofgem, the Government Office of Gas & Electricity Markets.
Ofgem tries to keep the market competitive, so that energy remains affordable for all consumers. When it comes to individual utility bills, you might save a good deal of money by comparing your energy plans very carefully.
Secondly, “green energy” is becoming ever more popular in the UK. At the moment, around 25% of the UK’s entire energy supply comes from renewable sources, like hydroelectricity and wind parks. Scotland, however, is not only a big energy producer when it comes to North Sea oil. This part of the UK is indeed one of the leading EU regions as far as the development of green energy sources is concerned. Wind power and maritime energy (like tidal energy production) are of particular importance in Scotland.
Increasing environmental awareness is the reason why quite a few energy companies in the UK offer green or, at least, “greenish” tariffs. If renewable energies and environmental protection are a major concern for you, you should check out those companies who specialize in green power. These include energy providers like ecotricity, green energy, good energy, or LoCO2 Energy.
Shop Around, Save Money
If you are more interested in the state of your purse than in the state of the environment, you have an even wider range of energy providers to choose from — from long-standing companies like British Gas, to new-fangled energy tariffs provided by big supermarket chains mainly known for shopping in the UK. Websites like uSwitch come in really handy here.
These sites help you compare prices on gas and electricity tariffs, based on your estimate energy consumption (size of your property, your household, and your habits). You can compare either dual fuel prices (for gas and electricity combined), or just single sources. It is possible to get electricity and gas from different companies in the UK.
How to Get Gas and Electricity in Your New Home
When you move into a new accommodation, find out which company provided the previous occupants with gas and/or electricity. Usually, the landlord or building management should be able to tell you. They should also know if the energy supply has been disconnected in an unused property.
If you need to reconnect electrical power or turn the gas back on, contact the energy company directly. In case you want to make use of this opportunity and switch to a new supplier, you need to get in touch with both providers and let them know when you are moving in. Both usually ask you for a final reading of the gas/electricity meter on the day when they complete the transfer to the new supplier. This can take between three and five weeks after informing the supply companies.
If the energy is still on, you just have to read the meter before you call the power company. Do keep a copy of that reading, just in case. In this way, you can check the consumption figures on your first utility bill.
Stay Safe and Know Your Rights
Last but not least, there are a few things you need to know about gas and electricity in the UK. Your landlord or the letting agent cannot prevent you from switching energy providers. You may have to announce your intent in writing, but you can’t be forced to stay with a specific company.
If you have got any gas appliances in your new home, make sure that they were recently checked by an officially registered Gas Safe engineer. The landlord or the building manager should provide you with a safety record from the current or previous year.
If you’d like to bring any electrical equipment from home, remember that the UK might have different voltage, as well as other standards for wall sockets and plugs. The main voltage in the UK is 230 V (50Hz), ranging from about 215–250 V. You either need to bring appliances with a type G plug or buy an adapter at the airport.
Getting Rid of the Waste
Unlike water and energy, waste disposal is still firmly in government hands. Your Local Council organizes waste disposal, trash collection, and recycling. You should check their website for details on these topics:
- when the trash (”bins”) will be collected and where you have to put the bins
- if they offer to dispose of large items, like a fridge or a sofa, as well
- if there is a recycling scheme in your community and which kind of waste goes into which bin (e.g. paper, glass, compost).
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.