Moving to the UK – Electric/Gas Services
3. Registering for Gas/Electric Services
I realize how lucky I was the first time I set up utilities in the UK. My honey is Scottish (which makes him British) and because of this fact he has credit in his own country and knowledge of how things go. When he called to set up the utilities he had them put my name on the account so we could build up my credit here because if I had been the one to call there would have been some issues. I realize A LOT of people have trouble with setting up utilities. I’ve read some blog posts and my process was a breeze. I just thought I’d mention some fun little facts, well, things I think are fun little facts.
Who even provides power and gas in my area?
I googled that very sentence. Most sites you type in your postcode and they will tell you who is providing service to your building currently. Also, if you’re like us, you will be receiving bills from the previous tenant so that lets you know who she was using… and not paying.
We have British Gas and EDF Energy in our building. Online it asks if I want to compare tariffs, which I’m assuming means compare the rates per different provider. It does. I put in my info and get a long list of providers available to me.
There are lots of providers to choose from.
- Spark Energy
- OVO Energy
- British Gas
- Southern Electric
- The Utility Warehouse
- Good Energy (working with National Trust)
- M&S Energy
British Gas is offering what they call a Smart Meter now and are promising it to all of their customers by 2020. This is a meter that tells you how much energy you’re using and even tells you how much money you’re spending, so you can maybe turn off appliances when you’re not using them. It also sends the usage to BG so they don’t have to average the bill for you. Kind of the way things are done in the US. All of the providers listed above can supply your gas and electricity a.k.a. dual fuel.
How in the world does one choose? My honey made it easy, he wants to stick with the one he’s always used. British Gas. Done.
You read your own meter each month.
What? Yeah I thought he was joking, but when he set up the utilities he was asked to go and read the meter and tell them what it said. The British rely on the honor system? AND we will be doing this each month I believe. They offer 5 ways of submitting your reading.
- mail it in on this little sheet they send out each month
- visit your online account
- download a mobile app and just take a picture and submit it
- go to their website
- or call them
This isn’t to say they don’t come and check up on you from time to time to make sure you’re not pulling the wool over their eyes.
The meter is where?
Our electric meter is on the first floor of our building under the stairs. No problem just bring a flat head screwdriver or key to open the little door to access the closet… the door with no knob… I might put one on there just because it’s easier. Or perhaps they don’t want it to be easy…
The gas meter is in one of our base cabinets… immediately adjacent the gas Hob (or stovetop) and oven. Scary location? Yes.
What if there’s a fire at the Hob and a leak in the line and I have to shut off the gas with a quickness you ask?
My options are…
- Stand in front of the flaming Hob, squat down, remove the trash can and stick my head in the cabinet to reach the lever to turn it off, then run down the stairs to grab the Fire Extinguisher that is located on each landing of the building
- Run outside while screaming, “Fire” and hope for the best
I hope I never find out what my natural instinct would be.
I have never had a gas appliance in an apartment building in the US. I’m fairly certain we are more stringent about where the shut offs are though. The reason for such strict rules in the US is because one person did something one time and ruined it for the rest of us. For example: our electric panels require 3’-0” clear area in front of them in case somebody gets electrocuted while messing with it they can be thrown back away from the panel and possibly still survive. Or the one in San Antonio where electricians have to install outlets (power points for the British) upside down with the ground on top because someone dropped a necklace onto a plugged in outlet and created an arc and then a fire. Kind of like why McDonalds coffee has HOT written ALL OVER IT because one dumbass put it between her legs and burned herself. I kind of like the British way, they’ll just look at you, shake their heads and tell you to “Feck off”.
Wow… off topic, sorry.
Options for how much to pay
If you don’t feel like going down to your meter each month, they offer you the option for “A Regular Payment” amount, which means basically they take the size of your place, figure out how muchish you should be using in a year and divide by 12.
In Texas they don’t trust us with this information, we pay for a guy to walk around everybody’s house, reading meters. Or with the fanciness of modern technology they have sensors that send the information back to a main collector and then send you a bill.
Tariffs (or taxes)
I’m not 100% sure about this whole tariff thing. Apparently you can choose a tariff rate for your utilities. The differences seem to be in the way the fuel is supplied (i.e. low-carbon or mixed source), whether or not it is a fixed rate for a length of time (I’ve seen up to 3 years), and if there is a termination fee or not. I’m sure there’s more to it, you basically have options for cheaper bills each month.
So who actually maintains the lines?
Your electricity provider sells you energy but it’s your local distribution network operator (DNO) who maintains the power lines.
- North Scotland – Scottish & Southern Energy
- South Scotland – Scottish Power
- North East England – Northern Powergrid
- North West – Electricity North West
- Yorkshire – Northern Powergrid
- East Midlands – Western Power Distribution
- West Midlands – Western Power Distribution
- Eastern England – UK Power Networks
- South Wales – Western Power Distribution
- Southern England – Scottish & Southern Energy
- London – UK Power Networks
- South East England – UK Power Networks
- South West England- Western Power Distribution
- North Wales, Merseyside and Cheshire- Scottish Power
It’s all interesting, well to me anyway.