The largest supplier of gas and electricity in the UK, British Gas is a subsidiary of Centrica, a British multinational that also owns Scottish Gas. The company currently has over 15 million customers, and as well as supplying energy, offers insurance and repair for boilers alongside plumbing and home electrics. British Gas are also part of the Nectar scheme, allowing you to earn discount points for every unit consumed.
Like the majority of energy suppliers British Gas now offer a number of energy-saving products and services to boost their green credentials. These include home insulation, solar panels, and charging stations for electric vehicles. However, despite these positive steps towards more eco-friendly energy production and consumption, the company still relies heavily on the burning of fossil fuels. Electricity generation methods can be broken down as follows:
In order to provide a more cost-effective service with environmental benefits, British Gas recently introduced their EnergySmart service, which allows customers to monitor their energy usage in real-time via a free home electricity monitor. The scheme currently promises large annual savings and bonus Nectar points, which are earned by submitting monthly meter readings online. You can also track energy usage via an online account, making it easier to manage your energy more effectively. British Gas is also in the process of introducing Smart Meters, which replace existing meters with amodel that allows for detailed tracking and management of energy usage, creating the potential for considerable savings.
British Gas currently offer five consumer tariffs: Online Energy, Fixed Price, Standard, Pay As You Go and energyshare.
Online Energy is the cheapest of the three tariffs, and emerged from recent streamlining of the company’s online portfolio, with OnlineSaver, Online Fixed and Websaver being replaced by Online Energy in November 2011. Online Energy customers manage their account over the internet, with no paper bills or statements, and sign up to make automated payments via Direct Debit.
The most popular British Gas tariff is Standard, which allows you to choose whether you want to manage your account over the internet or via traditional paper statements. Like Online Energy, the Standard tariff comes with no cancellation fee, meaning that you can switch to another tariff or supplier at any time with no penalty. You can pay bills using cash, cheque or credit card, although substantial annual discounts are offered to those who pay by Direct Debit.
If you want to keep on top of your energy bills, you can opt for the Pay As You Go service, which uses a key meter to charge for energy as it is used. You can top-up your energy supply over the counter at any shop displaying the yellow PayPoint sign, or via a secure online account. Rates for Pay As You Go customers are higher than the Standard or Online Energy tariffs, and you don’t benefit from the price protection of the Fixed Price tariff. On the other hand, this tariff means you can pay for your energy as you use it rather than face a bill every month or quarter. It’s a good option for anyone who struggles to budget.
If you are concerned about climate change, the Ofgem-accredited energyshare tariff might be the right choice for you. This tariff provides electricity supply exclusively from renewable sources, and all for the same price as the Standard tariff. You manage your account online without the need for paper statements, while payment by Direct Debit offers significant annual discounts. New customers currently receive a free energy saving device of their choice, while British Gas also make account-based donations to the energyshare fund, which supports community renewable energy projects.
Finally, British Gas offer a Fixed Price tariff, which freezes your energy rates for a fixed period of time. Although this tariff is higher in cost than the others, you are protected against price rises for up to18 months. It’s also worth noting that British Gas charge a cancellation fee for this tariff, which is doubled if you receive both gas and electricity.