Common Energy Terms Explained
The world of energy suppliers is complex, and filled with terminology and jargon that can be difficult to decipher. We've put together this list of common terms you may see as you navigate our site, or the sites of any energy suppliers as you compare energy prices.
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The 'Big Six'
The 'Big Six' refers to the traditional six energy suppliers in Britain, which are:
These suppliers earned their title from the early days of privatisation of the energy supply industry, as they had almost all the market share. However, things change, and since then E.ON has acquired NPower, while SSE has been acuired by OVO Energy effectively making it a 'big five', while Octopus has aqcuired Bulb, making it the fifth largest energy supplier.
The largest six domestic suppliers as of 2023 are British Gas, E.ON, OVO, EDF, Octopus and Scottish Power and these six have about 82% share of the domestic market.
A measurement of energy that is generated when gas is combusted, which is recorded in cubic feet (ft³) or cubic metres (m³).
This is when the same supplier provides both gas and electricity on the same tariff. There are usually discounts available if you spring for a dual fuel tariff.
A tariff that offers cheaper unit rates for 7 hours during night time (usually from 0000-0700). Economy 7 meters show two separate readings.
Similar to an Economy 7 tariff, except that it provides cheaper unit rates for 10 hours during the evening.
Kilowatt hour (kWh)
Without getting too technical, a kilowatt hour (kWh) is a unit of measurement for energy usage and it applies to both gas and electricity. It measures the amount of energy used if a 1,000 watt appliance were to run for an hour.
For example, it would take 10 hours for a 100 watt light bulb to use 1kWh of energy. This is why energy saving bulbs like LEDs are more popular; they have a lower wattage and therefore consume fewer kilowatt hours, but they are just as bright as traditional bulbs.
MPAN (Metering Point Administration Number)
Sometimes referred to as an ‘S number’, this number uniquely identifies your household’s electricity supplier, and it is always preceded by the letter ‘S’.
It’s standard format is as follows:
The top row of numbers is (almost) always made up of 8 digits, while the bottom row is made up of 13 digits.
The numbers are separated in the manner shown, as each set denotes specific information as your supplier’s distribution ID.
Alternatively, some energy bills will simply call this your ‘electricity supply number’ as opposed to an MARN.
MPRN (Meter Point Reference Number)
This number identifies your household’s gas supplier, and will comprise anything between 6 and 10 digits.
It is sometimes referred to as an ‘M number’. Your energy supplier may refer to this number as your ‘gas supply number’ rather than an MPRN.
The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) is a government regulator that promotes competition in the energy industry by regulating the electricity and gas monopoly in Britain.
This means that consumers can benefit from a variety of value-for-money energy tariffs.
Although it works with the UK Government, it is an independent body and it is non-ministerial department.
This is a fixed daily cost added to your energy bill, so it is not dependent on your gas or electricity usage.
This charge covers vital costs such as maintenance, meter readings, and other logistical facets of energy supply and consumption.
This is the amount that your energy provider charges you for your gas and/or electricity usage.
There are many different types of tariffs (e.g. fixed, standard, green) to choose from, depending on your household’s energy needs.
Unit rate OR unit price
The amount you pay per unit of gas or electricity (measured in kilowatt hours).
The bulk purchasing of gas, electricity, and other energy products by energy suppliers via the wholesale energy market.
The advanced bulk purchasing of wholesale energy is intended to keep energy prices stable, especially given that wholesale energy costs account for over half of a consumer’s energy bill.
Although the price of wholesale energy is set by the market, it is still prone to fluctuations and this has a direct effect on consumers’ energy bills