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Comparing business energy guide

It’s one of the indisputable truths of the market economy. Shopping around pays off. In the domestic energy sector, we are told repeatedly by MPs and Ofgem that we need to compare prices to get the cheapest deals. There are lots of important differences between the domestic energy market, where a quick check on your preferred price comparison website is enough to reveal the cheapest prices, and the business energy sector, which is a lot more complicated. Comparing prices is different for domestic customers and non-domestic customers, but it can still pay huge dividends for businesses. Utility Helpline is a team of business energy price comparison experts dedicated to helping businesses find the cheapest energy supply. They produced this guide to help more businesses compare suppliers and save. It will focus on:

  • Business energy contracts
  • Comparing energy suppliers (and prices)
  • Switching suppliers

Business energy contracts

There are lots of business energy contracts available. This means that businesses have a lot of choice and can find a contract that matches their needs and priorities. Again, business energy contracts are not the same as domestic ones. Homeowners can usually get a better deal with a ‘dual-fuel’ tariff, for example, while businesses can’t buy these fuels as a package deal. Business contracts are also stricter than domestic energy contracts and there is usually a fee for terminating them early.

Unique quotes for business energy

Price comparison websites are everywhere for domestic customers. They can compare dozens of tariffs in seconds because most domestic customers are quite similar. Price comparison websites aren’t reliable for business energy users. Businesses come in different shapes and sizes. They have different credit ratings. They operate in different parts of the country and across multiple sites. All this makes it difficult to give an accurate quote, because are no generic contracts. This means that energy quotes are unique and decided on a case by case basis. Price comparison websites do offer indicative quotes for businesses, but there is only so much that an indicative quote can tell you.

Fixed tariff or flexible?

Fixed price tariffs are the most common type of business gas and electricity contract. Businesses can fix their prices for up to five years, but one, two and three year fixes are more common. Generally speaking, the longer you fix your prices for, the more expensive the tariff is likely to be. Flexible tariffs are also available, but these are usually only for businesses that purchase in huge volumes. If you are interested in flexible energy purchasing please speak to one of our energy managers.

Green energy business contracts

Much of this guide focuses on how to get the best price for your business energy. But it is important to recognise that different businesses value different things. Sometimes Utility Helpline gets enquiries about ‘green energy’ contracts, usually relating to commercial electricity contracts that are drawn primarily or totally from renewable sources. If a business is forced to report greenhouse gas emissions, then renewable electricity contracts can help them achieve a good rating. Even if a company is not required to report their emissions, using green energy can have certain reputational benefits. Green contracts are usually about electricity, but there are ways of getting ‘green’ gas contracts. Such as those that don’t use fracking. Comparing green energy contracts is broadly the same as comparing other types of business energy contract. But be prepared for less choice and higher prices.

Comparing energy suppliers and getting the best price

Because energy contracts have to be tendered and negotiated on an individual basis with suppliers, and comparing suppliers online is difficult, it means that comparing suppliers is harder and more complicated for businesses. Finding the best price is hard work, but it is worth it for some of the savings that you can make. The best option is picking up the phone and contacting as many suppliers as possible comparing the same usage and similar contract terms. Or you can save some time and have a specialist business energy broker compare your prices for you.

Cheap business energy

For a good price comparison, you need to get a breakdown on energy unit rates, one-off costs and standing charges. This will help you compare on a like for like basis. You can start you comparison online, but the energy supplier websites and comparison engines will usually only give an indicative quote. To get a more accurate quote you will need to phone the supplier directly. Business energy prices fluctuate regularly so you should never use a comparison site by itself. Compare as many suppliers as possible and make sure you have a good range of large, small and niche suppliers. If you do not have the time to compare lots of suppliers yourself then you can use a business energy broker service like Utility Helpline to compare suppliers on your behalf. We compare more than 70 suppliers from 20 different energy suppliers and negotiate with the providers to try and pin down the best rate. Once we have got the best possible prices from all of the suppliers we will lay all the information out in an easy to understand way and rank the offers to help you make a final decision. Ultimately, your business energy prices will be determined by terms of the contract that you agree with your supplier. This is why it’s important to thoroughly research the quotes available to you before you switch business energy suppliers (and why it can be so helpful to have an expert watching out for red flags). But it is important to remember that price isn’t always everything.

Switching suppliers

The process of actually switching your suppliers is, generally speaking, quite easy. Most of them go off without a hitch. But switching can go wrong and when it does, it can be very damaging for businesses. You can make your switch simpler by using a specialist energy broker service like the one offered by Utility Helpline. Utility Helpline’s full service doesn’t stop when they have found the cheapest deal. They get the switch started on your behalf and correct any problems before they have an impact on your business. Utility Helpline also works with its customer right through the length of their contract, offering advice and help whenever it is required. They can also remind customers when it is time to renew to help them stay on the best deal year in year out.

Pitfalls to watch out for

There are some pitfalls to look out for when you are comparing and switching your energy supplier:

  • Although unfair rollover contracts have largely been stamped out of the non-domestic energy sector, they do still exist. Utility Helpline will help you avoid these punitive rollover contracts.
  • Unlike domestic energy contracts, business energy contracts lock you in for a set period. You can’t usually switch away mid-contract.
  • There is no cooling-off period for business energy contracts. You need to be certain before you sign one into place.


Published by Utility Helpline on (modified )