Energy comparison: Find the best gas and electricity deals for you

Energy bills

Gas and electricity deals are finally returning slowly as firms start to battle for new customers once again after pulling switchable tariffs when the energy crisis hit two years ago.

Data from Electralink shows there has been a surge in switching in recent months, with 201,000 switches completed in December – 86% more than December 2022.

And after the energy price cap rose by 5% on 1 January, even more people are considering if it’s worth switching to a fixed tariff. 

You can see the pick of the fixed deals currently out there below, including a new fix from Octopus for its customers that undercuts the market, or you can do a quick energy comparison of the open-market deals available via our sister site, Go.Compare. But the switching market is a little different right now. Here we take you through the key things you need to know if you’re thinking about switching your energy.

1. Most households are currently on the price cap

The majority of households are currently on their provider’s standard variable tariff, with rates dictated by regulator Ofgem’s energy price cap. If you’ve not switched in the last year or so, that’s likely you. So that is what you’d need to benchmark against when thinking about switching. 

The price cap sets a limit on what firms can charge for each unit of gas and electricity and the standing charges. See our full energy price cap explainer for more on how it works and the average unit rates below.

2. The price cap rose by 5% on 1 January

The energy price cap changes every three months and increased by an average of 5% on 1 January 2024, taking a typical household bill to £1,928 a year (it had been set at £1,834/year for a typical household from 1 October to 31 December 2023).

It’s important to note though that it’s the rates that are capped, not the amount you pay. So higher users will pay more than those typical use figures, lower users will pay less.

As a result, when comparing deals, it’s important to look at the unit rates. The price cap rates vary per region. But to help, here are the average unit rates and standing charges for direct debit under the new and old price caps. 

Current energy price cap rates from 1 January to 31 March 2024 Old energy price cap rates from 1 October to 31 December 2023
Gas Unit rate: 7.42p per kilowatt hour (kWh). Standing charge: 29.60p per day Unit rate: 6.89p per kWh. Standing charge: 29.62p per day
Electricity Unit rate: 28.62p per kWh. Standing charge: 53.35p per day Unit rate: 27.35p per kWh. Standing charge: 53.37p per day

3. The price cap is expected to drop over the next year

To work out if a fixed deal is worth switching to, you need to understand what is expected to happen to energy bills over the next year. The good news is prices are finally expected to move in the right direction. Analysts are now predicting a 16% price cap drop from April – a bigger fall than had been expected. 

Here are the latest predictions (as of 22 January) from analysts at Cornwall Insight on how the price cap is expected to move on average over the next year. This is what you’d pay if you don’t switch.

Remember, these are just predictions and things can change fast in the energy market. While these latest predictions are a lot lower than previously forecast, the further out the prediction, the more it is likely to vary. 

See more in our ‘Will energy prices go down? article. And use our Energy Price cap calculator to see what you could pay over the whole of 2024.

Time period Price cap on new typical use figures
Old cap: 1 October 2023 to 31 December 2023 £1,834 a year
Current cap: 1 January 2024 to 31 March 2024 UP 5% - £1,928 a year
1 April 2024 to 30 June 2024 DOWN 16% - £1,620 a year - PREDICTION
1 July 2024 to 30 September 2024 DOWN 8% - £1,497 a year - PREDICTION
1 October 2024 to 31 December 2024 UP 3% - £1,542 a year - PREDICTION

Note, based on Ofgem’s new typical use figures of 2,700 kWh for electricity and 11,500kWh for gas. 

4. Is it worth ditching the price cap?

There are no certainties here without a crystal ball, but based on current predictions, if you find a fixed deal for around 15% less than the current January price cap, it might be worth considering. Especially if you are someone that really values price certainty and want to lock your rates in for a year now, without having to worry about what happens in the energy market over that period. 

The flip side, of course, is if wholesale prices – what firms pay for their energy – were to drop further and suppliers were able to offer even cheaper deals, or the price cap falls by more than expected from April, you could be missing out and be stuck on a pricier tariff with hefty exit fees.

See Should I fix my energy? for full pros and cons of switching. 

5. There are a handful of fixed deals on the market

If you want to find the cheapest gas and electricity deals, the easiest way usually is by doing a quick energy comparison via our sister site, Go.Compare. Although right now, as the switching market comes back slowly, there are only a handful of open-market deals, and most aren’t yet on comparisons, so that’s not the only place to look.

Here are the cheapest fixed energy deals we know of and who can get them compared against the new January price cap. All have £150 dual-fuel exit fees, apart from Scottish Power, which is £300.

Supplier & tariff Average cost compared with new January Price Cap Who can get it?
Octopus Loyal 12M Fixed January 2024 v1 12-month fix 9% less All existing customers
British Gas Fixed Jan 25 v7/ The Fixed One v35 12-month fix 8% less New and existing customers via its site
Scottish Power Help Beat Cancer Flexi April 2025 12-month fix 7% less New and existing customers via its site. Scottish Power will donate to Cancer Research UK on your behalf.
So Energy So Mint One Year - Green 12-month fix 5% less New customers via Go.Compare. Existing customers can get it direct.
EDF Essentials 1Yr Feb 25 one-year fix 5% less New and existing customers via its site.
E.on Next Fixed 12m v6 12-month fix 4% less New and existing customers via its site
Ovo Energy 1 Year Fixed Loyalty 04 January 2024 12-month fix 4% less All existing customers
Ovo Energy 1 year Fixed 14 Dec 2023 12-month fix 4% less New and existing customers via its site
Sainsbury's Energy Fix and Reward Fixed 12M V6 12-month fix 3% less New and existing customers via its site

6. There are variable tariffs that can undercut the price cap

If you are willing to switch off the price cap and onto a variable tariff, rather than a fix, there are a few options that could work out cheaper.

E.on Next Pledge: Tariff tracks £50 below the price cap and changes every three months

If you’re an existing E.on Next direct debit customer, or you’re a new customer intending to pay by direct debit, it has a variable tariff called Next Pledge which might be worth considering. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Pledge is a 12-month fixed-term product which tracks the price cap and remains £50 below the cap based on average annual consumption.
  • The price will change each quarter in line with price cap changes – so it’ll fall in April. 
  • You must pay by direct debit and there are exit fees of £25 per fuel.
  • You’ll need a smart meter.
  • See full E.on Next Pledge analysis

E.on is also offering a special discounted tariff to existing customers on low incomes. It is discounting the October to December rate of the price cap by  up to 50%, and writing off debt for some households.

Octopus Tracker: Prices change daily based on whole energy costs

If you’re an Octopus Energy customer or willing to switch to the firm, you may be able to save on your energy bills with its Octopus Tracker tariff

The Octopus Tracker is pegged to the wholesale price of energy, which is the rate suppliers pay, with gas and electricity prices changing on a daily basis.

This means you can benefit from cheaper rates immediately if prices go down, rather than waiting for any change in the price cap to kick in further down the line – though bills can also spike if wholesale does.

Tracker has been cheaper than the price cap in recent months, but that could change amid colder weather and higher demand. See our Octopus Tracker analysis for what you need to know.

7. Time of use tariffs can be cheaper if you can shift your use to off-peak times

If you have a smart meter, time of use tariffs offer cheaper unit rates for your energy at ‘off-peak’ times of the day, ie, when energy use is at its lowest. Some of these tariffs may also offer beneficial rates when renewables are producing a glut of energy.

So if you are able to shift your energy use to when it is cheaper, these types of tariffs could work out cheaper for you.

Octopus Energy has led the way with this kind of tariff through its Agile Octopus tariff. This is a variable electricity tariff where the prices are updated every 30 minutes based on wholesale prices. See full Agile Octopus analysis

If you own an electric vehicle, EV tariffs could be a good option. You get discounted electricity unit rates for charging your vehicle during off-peak hours – usually overnight. 

While EV tariffs are specifically aimed at owners of electric vehicles, the cheaper unit rates you get with them apply to all of your electricity usage. So, you can save money on all the electricity you use at off-peak times. See our round up of the cheapest EV tariffs and what you need to consider.

8. Switching is easy – you won’t lose your supply​

If you decide switching is right for you, it is really simple. You won’t lose supply, all that changes is what you pay and the customer service of the new firm.

Once you’ve done an energy comparison and chosen the tariff and supplier you’d like to switch to, you then confirm your contract and payment method. Paying by direct debit is usually cheapest, while paying by cash, cheque or quarterly direct debit is more expensive.

Your new supplier will contact you with a switching date. Ofgem says it can take up to five working days to complete a switch, although you can specify a later switch date if you want to.

If you change your mind, you have 14 days to cancel from when you agree to a contract – though if you’ve already been switched, you’ll need to pay the new supplier for any energy used.

9. In the last 49 days of a fix? You can switch fee-free

Under Ofgem rules, if you are in the last 49 days of a fixed deal, you are free to switch away without paying exit fees. So make sure you make a note of when your fixed tariff is due to end.

10. In debt? You may still be able to switch

If you’ve been in debt to your supplier for less than 28 days, you can still switch. Your old firm will add anything you owe to your final bill. 

If you are on a standard credit meter (eg, you pay by direct debit), you’ll need to repay a debt first if you’ve owed money for over 28 days. 

If you’re on a prepayment meter, it’s slightly different. If you’ve outstanding debt of under £500, the supplier you switch to will take on the debt and you will repay them instead. Ofgem says this happens under a ‘Debt Assignment Protocol’. You will agree the terms of your repayment plan with them and under the regulator’s rules, it must be realistic and affordable.

See how to get help with gas and electricity bills if you are struggling. 

It’s worth noting that if it is your supplier’s fault you are in debt, they can’t stop you from switching. 

11. Renters should be free to switch

If it is your responsibility to pay energy bills, then you are free to choose your supplier. Check your rental agreement if you’re not sure. Even if your landlord is responsible – eg, they include the cost of energy in your rent, or pay the supplier directly and claim it back – Ofgem says they should not unreasonably stop you from switching.

12. You'll likely need to have smart meters or be happy to get 'em installed for the cheapest deals

Many of the cheapest deals on the market require you to either have smart meters, or be willing to get them installed for free. This is because the Government has given energy suppliers the target of having smart meters in 80% of homes in the UK by 2025.

Smart meters can also open up eligibility to money-saving schemes. Under the National Grid Demand Flexibility Service, households with smart meters are being paid at set period during this winter to move their energy use away from peak periods. 

Here’s everything you need to know about smart meters.

13. Most suppliers will run a credit check

Energy companies will usually run a credit check when you sign up to a new deal as they want to check you are going to be able to pay your bill. This may leave a minor mark on your credit file.

If you fail a credit check, firms may suggest you get a prepayment meter instead. However, if you are about to make a big credit application, eg, for a mortgage, it may be best holding off switching until it is approved

14. On prepay? You can switch

If you are on a prepayment meter and want to switch to a new supplier, you are free to do so, providing you are in debt for under £500.

There are fewer deals for prepay customers, but most suppliers let you switch to a regular credit meter for free (where you’re billed for your use after you use it). This could allow you to take advantage of cheaper fixed deals. You’ll just need to clear any debt first and will be credit-checked.

If you are renting and want to switch off a prepay meter to a standard credit meter, you’ll need to get permission from your landlord first. 

15. You are free to switch if you only have electricity

If you want to switch your electricity only as you don’t have a gas supply, you are free to do that. You can do an electricity-only comparison through our sister site Go.Compare.

16. Make sure you give regular meter readings

Unless you have smart meters, which give readings automatically, it’s important you give regular meter readings to your supplier. This will ensure you are billed correctly and your energy direct debit is set at the right level. See how to take meter readings.