If you’re launching a new venture, if your business has located to a new premise, or you’re simply looking to switch supplier to find better at a cheaper rate, there are a number of things you’ll want to consider when selecting a business energy supplier. As a business owner, you know how important the bottom line is and utilities are often a significant portion of your overhead. You can’t afford to overpay for your gas and electricity tariffs. But sometimes price isn’t the be and end all when it comes to choosing a commercial energy supplier and, unlike domestic customers, you can always negotiate those rates.
What you can’t negotiate is the customer service of your supplier, or their fuel mix and contract flexibility. Once you’re locked in to a business energy contract, which are generally lengthier than those for households and can last up to 3 or even 5 years, exiting can be difficult and expensive.
So how responsive is that provider to customer service complaints? You don’t want to be spending hours of your working day navigating a byzantine phone tree and listening to hold Muzak when trying to resolve an issue with your gas bill. How do they generate the electricity they provide you and what’s the composition of their gas? If being green is important to your business, you’ll want to choose a supplier that reflects those values. Do they offer smart meters and can you save money by using the same supplier for your electricity and gas? You also might want to consider which charities a supplier partners with.
Finding a business energy deal can be daunting. A simple comparison tool generally isn’t sufficient, given the bespoke nature of commercial energy tariffs. Some businesses may revert to an experienced broker to find the best supplier and deal. But whether you’re relying on a broker or going it alone, you’ll want to know what to prioritise in an energy relationship.
We’ll examine what can make or break a B2B energy deal and give you a list of things to consider before you rush down the aisle/sign on the dotted line with a business energy deal.
Suppliers for Gas and Electricity
At home you might have a dual-fuel tariff, giving you gas and electricity from the same provider, on the same monthly bill. These bundles don’t exist in the commercial energy market, but you might rack up savings by opting to take gas from your electricity supplier or vice versa. Weigh the prices they offer and the convenience of having one supplier—but likely two contracts—before committing, however. You might find a cheaper deal elsewhere.
As a business owner, you’ll know how important it is to treat your customers fairly and be responsive to their questions and complaints. However, as with many contract businesses, you might find yourself stung by bad customer service from your commercial energy supplier. You’re locked in for years and your contract might even automatically renew. Your supplier may not think they have much incentive to reduce their helpline waiting times and clarify their bills. It’s important to check their customer service record before agreeing to a multi-year contract.
How satisfied are their existing customers? Regulator Ofgem and consumer group Which? regularly poll energy consumers and publish league tables of suppliers. How many complaints have been made about the supplier to Ofgem and the Ombudsman? This is also information you can find. Additionally, check out the score and reviews of the company on Trustpilot.
There are a growing number of green B2B energy providers, including Bulb and Ecotricity, offering electricity generated from 100% renewable resources, including wind and solar power, and gas with a portion of biomethane. Prices have fallen on renewable energy—sometimes it’s now even cheaper than the alternative—so it’s easier than ever for your business to go green.
Business energy contracts can be lengthy and unless your business shutters or relocates to a new premises, you generally won’t be able to exit them without financial penalty. A provider that offers some flexibility can be rare, and valuable, especially for a new or rapidly growing business. Eco-friendly Bulb doesn’t lock business customers into 12-month contracts and doing one better, they don’t charge exit fees either. In fact, if you’re switching to Bulb from another supplier, they’ll pay that supplier to release you from the contract.
Smart Meters for Businesses
By the end of 2020 all small business, along with all households, will have been offered a smart meter for no extra charge, allowing them to digitally track and manage their energy use, and eliminating the need for estimated bills or manual meter readings. If you want to get a jump start on the UK’s new digital energy system, ask suppliers if they’re rolling out smart meters in your area yet.