This page has answers to some of the most common questions about switching to green energy. If you have a question that isn’t covered, please get in touch with the Big Clean Switch team.
Helping organisations to switch
What support is available for organisations?
Big Clean Switch is putting the finishing touches to a new website that will help businesses in Greater Manchester switch to green energy. Like their household switching service, it will let you easily compare the price of a panel of vetted green energy suppliers, and switch to the one that looks right for you.
Why should I be interested?
We know that when you’re running any kind of organisation, it can be hard to find time to look at your energy supply. Searching through different options that all seem to be priced differently, speaking to brokers, asking for quotes to be re-issued when they expire - it all takes time that you don’t have. Our platform is designed to take all that pain away. You’ll be able to see how much each supplier will cost you on a like for like basis, and switch straight away, knowing that Big Clean Switch has done the homework on their green credentials. Better still, once you’ve switched, Big Clean Switch will provide you with marketing materials - including a window sticker - to help you talk about it to your employees and customers.
What is ‘green energy’?
The term ‘green energy’ is often used instead of ‘renewable energy’ or ‘clean energy’. Renewable electricity is considered ‘clean’ because it has a much smaller impact on our climate, and also because most renewable electricity sources have very low impacts in relation to air pollution. Different types of renewable electricity sources include wind power, solar power, hydro power, bioenergy, tidal and wave power. Electricity that comes from renewable sources is kinder to the environment compared to traditional fossil fuels that can cause air pollution and contribute to climate change (oil, gas etc).
What’s so great about green energy?
Traditionally, electricity has been generated by burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas. Generating power in this way causes air pollution and releases gases like carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change, so there is global agreement that we need to massively reduce our dependency on them. This also makes sense because these energy sources take millions of years to develop, and as we use them up, they’re getting more and more difficult, expensive and environmentally damaging to get out of the ground. In contrast, renewable electricity sources won’t run out in this way, and have much lower climate change impacts.
What are biofuels and are they better than fossil fuels?
Trees and plants act like solar batteries, capturing the sun’s energy and storing it. This energy can be converted into electricity – either by burning it if it is combustible (which is known as biomass) – or by allowing it to rot, and then burning the gases released in the process. Because new crops can be planted to replace trees and plants used to generate electricity, biofuels are considered renewable. And although burning these plants – or the gases they release as they break down – releases greenhouse gases, the new crops that replace them will absorb similar gases from the atmosphere, which means they usually have a much smaller impact on our climate than fossil fuels.
Green tariffs and suppliers
How do green tariffs work?
When you’re on a renewable electricity tariff, your supplier promises that, however much electricity you use in your home, the same amount of renewable electricity will be put into the National Grid. The more this happens, the greener the Grid will get. Because you’re still getting your electricity from the National Grid, there’s no need for engineers’ visits and no disruption to your supply when you switch.
How do you choose which suppliers to work with?
It is important that you have confidence in both the green credentials and customer service levels of the suppliers that you switch to through GM Green Switch. Big Clean Switch have a strict set of criteria that governs whether a particular supplier can be listed. They include a requirement that the renewable electricity has to be sourced from the UK, and an exclusion for certain types of biofuels where experts have questioned their environmental benefits. You can read the full selection criteria here.
Is there a risk that I’ll lose power when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow?
You’ll still get your electricity from the National Grid, which manages the UK’s electricity supply to ensure everyone always has enough power. At the moment, this means we still need some fossil fuel or nuclear generation to provide power when conditions aren’t right for renewables, but this can be reduced by having a diverse range of renewable power sources, using batteries to store energy when conditions are right, and using smart technology to reduce the amount of power we need.
Isn’t green energy really expensive?
Building new renewable energy plants (wind or solar farms for instance) is now cheaper than many fossil fuel plants. When it comes to the electricity we buy as households and businesses, this too is now very competitively priced. In fact, homes switching through GM Green Switch so far have saved over £250 a year on average.
Are the tariffs available through GM Green Switch the cheapest on the market?
No. Although the tariffs available through GM Green Switch are very competitively priced, there are cheaper tariffs available elsewhere. If securing the very best price is important to you, consider using the Citizens Advice whole market comparison service. When using other comparison services, there are two considerations to bear in mind:
Customer service levels vary considerably between suppliers. Big Clean Switch won’t work with suppliers that can’t demonstrate high quality customer service. That allows them to make you a simple promise when you switch through GM Green Switch: if you have a problem with your new supplier you can’t resolve directly with them, they’ll take it up with the supplier on your behalf. If you’re switching through another service, it’s worth looking into the supplier’s customer service record through a third party site like Which? or Trustpilot.
The cheapest tariffs on the market are usually fixed term deals - usually for 12 months. At the end of the 12 months, if you don’t choose a different tariff or switch supplier, you're likely to end up on the supplier’s ‘default’ tariff, which could be hundreds of pounds a year more expensive. If you’re happy switching every year, then that’s no problem, but if you think you might not get around to it, check the gap between the supplier’s introductory deal and their default rate before switching.
Will I be charged for switching?
No, switching is free. Big Clean Switch is funded from commission paid by suppliers. This doesn’t affect the price of the tariffs on the site offer (which are the same price as they are on suppliers’ own websites, other than where Big Clean Switch has negotiated an even better deal).
Do I have to pay to leave my current supplier?
If your current supplier has promised to keep the price you pay for a unit of electricity the same for a certain period (known as a ‘fixed tariff’), then they may charge you a penalty for leaving them before the end of that time (usually a year, although some fixed tariffs last longer). However, switching may still be worth your while if the savings outweigh the penalty. If you think an early-leaving charge might apply to you, give the Big Clean Switch team a ring on 0800 249 4770 and they can talk you through the options.
The switching process
How easy is it to switch?
Switching your home is simple and there are no upfront costs. Signing up takes less than 10 minutes.
Note that if you are on a fixed term tariff with your current supplier, they may charge you an exit fee for leaving early. However, switching may still be worth your while if the savings outweigh the penalty.
How does switching work?
Once you’ve completed your switching application with Big Clean Switch, they’ll send your details to your new supplier (for more about how Big Clean Switch processes your data, click here). The day after you submit your application also marks the beginning of a 14 day cooling off period, during which you are free to change your mind and cancel your switch. During this period, your new supplier will contact your current supplier to let them know you’re moving, make sure your account is in order, and set a date for the switch (which they’ll then tell you about). This is typically about three weeks from the date of your switch application. On that day, you’ll stop paying your old company for your energy (they’ll send you a final bill up to that date), and start paying the new one. You may be asked to submit a meter reading on that day, too.
Do I need to contact my old supplier to let them know I’m switching?
No. Big Clean Switch will let your new supplier know that you want to switch to them, and they’ll contact your old supplier for you. If your old supplier confirms that the account isn’t in arrears, your new supplier will then confirm the switch date with you.
How is my quote calculated?
Big Clean Switch provides an estimate of how much you currently spend a year and compares this with how much you’ll pay for participating green tariffs. These estimates are based on the information you give us about how much energy you use and which tariff you’re currently on. If you’re on a fixed tariff that comes to an end in the next 12 months, the Big Clean Switch site will assume that you’ll drop onto your current supplier’s default tariff at that point.
Can I switch my gas too?
Yes, although so far, gas from renewable sources still makes up a very small proportion of the gas used by UK homes, so very few suppliers offer ‘100% renewable gas’ in the same way as you can get 100% renewable electricity. Where they do, this will be shown on the Big Clean Switch website in the tariff description.
I rent my home. Can I switch?
Meters and meter numbers
I’ve been asked for my meter number. How do I find this out?
In most cases, the Big Clean Switch system can identify your meter numbers automatically. Occasionally, however, this information can’t be found, and you’ll need to enter your meter number manually. There are two types of meter number – one for gas, known as an MPRN (meter point reference number) and one for electricity, known as an MPAN (metering point administration number). Confusingly, another type of number - a serial number - is often displayed on your energy meter, while MPAN and MPRN numbers will normally not be shown on the meter itself. Both numbers should, however, be shown on a past bill. If you don’t have a past bill, call us on 0800 249 4770 and we can look up the numbers for you.
I’m on a pre-payment meter. Can I still benefit from switching?
Yes. However, your choice of tariffs will be more limited and the annual savings will be significantly less than for other meter types. It is still worth considering switching though, as you will be able to guarantee that your electricity comes from renewable sources which are kinder to the environment.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is the next generation of a gas and electricity meter. They're being installed by energy suppliers in every home in England, Scotland and Wales. Smart meters come with an in-home display screen that shows you exactly how much energy you're using in pounds and pence, in near real time and will bring an end to estimated bills. You can find out more about smart meters on the Smart Energy GB website.
I already have a smart meter. Can I switch?
Most homes in the UK that already have a smart meter have a ‘first generation’ smart meter, known as a SMETS1. If you have a SMETS1 meter, you can switch, but may have to provide manual meter readings to your new supplier for a while. Most suppliers are now rolling out a new generation of smart meters (SMETS2) which will allow you to switch providers without losing functionality – if you don’t have one, you can ask your new supplier to install one.
Do I have to have a smart meter?
Smart meters aren’t compulsory and you can choose not to have one. Choosing not to have a smart meter may mean you don’t have access to all the available tariffs on the market, some of which could be cheaper. If you don’t want to have a smart meter now, you will still be able to have one installed for free at a later date.
About this scheme
Who’s behind this?
GM Green Switch is delivered through a partnership between Big Clean Switch and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
What is the Greater Manchester Combined Authority?
The GMCA is made up of the ten Greater Manchester councils and Mayor, who work with other local services, businesses, communities and other partners to improve the city-region. The ten councils (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan) have worked together voluntarily for many years on issues that affect everyone in the region, like transport, regeneration, and attracting investment. The GMCA gives local people more control over issues that affect their area. It means the region speaks with one voice and can make a strong case for resources and investment. It helps the entire north of England achieve its full potential.
What is GMCA doing to improve the environment in Greater Manchester?
Greater Manchester faces major environmental challenges that threaten the health and prosperity of our region. To make sure we’re prepared, the Mayor is launching a five-year ‘Environment Plan’ at the Green Summit on 26 March. The plan sets out GMCA’s long-term environmental vision – to be carbon neutral by 2038 – and the actions we all need to take in the next five years to help achieve this. It is the outcome of 12 months of consultation and collaboration with all parts of the Greater Manchester family. For more information about GMCA’s environmental work and the Green Summit, follow @GMLowCarbonHub, #GMGreenCity or visit: www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/environment
What is Big Clean Switch?
Big Clean Switch is part of Brakkn, a business that helps homes and businesses switch to clean, affordable energy. Brakkn is a B Corp, which means it has been accredited to verify that it meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.