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Uswitch's jargon buster: a glossary of energy terminology

Uswitch's jargon buster: a glossary of energy terminology

The Uswitch gas and electricity glossary: a guide through the world of energy jargon.

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Biomass Biomass is a type of renewable fuel derived from plants. It is increasingly being used to generate electricity. You can also buy biomass stoves and boilers.

Business plans Commercial gas and electricity use is different from home energy use, and is usually higher. Energy suppliers offer gas and electricity plans especially designed for businesses.

Capped plans With a capped plan, the amount you pay for each unit of energy will not rise for a set period of time, but may go down if gas and electricity prices fall.

Citizens Advice Consumer Service Energy consumers can get information and advice on energy issues from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. Go to Citizens Advice Consumer Service or call on 08454 04 05 06.

Consumer Focus Energywatch, the independent watchdog for consumers, was merged in October 2008 with Postwatch and the National Consumer Council to form Consumer Focus. It was announced in 2010 that the governing body would be abolished and, in March 2013, Ofgem took over its Confidence Code for comparison websites.

Direct debit Direct debits are regular payments taken directly from your bank account. Because they save on administration costs and ensure bills are paid on time, energy suppliers offer discounts to customers who pay by direct debit, making this the cheapest way to pay your gas and electricity bills.

Dual fuel With a dual fuel energy plan, you get your gas and electricity from the same energy supplier. This usually works out cheaper. More about dual fuel

Economy 7 With this electricity plan, electricity you use during the night costs less. As a general rule, you'll need to be using around 20% of your energy consumption at night to make a saving on an Economy 7 plan. More about Economy 7

Energywatch The independent watchdog for consumers was merged in October 2008 with Postwatch and the National Consumer Council to form Consumer Focus . Consumers can now get information and advice on energy issues from Consumer Direct , which is operated by the Office of Fair Trading.

Estimated bills Your gas and electricity supplier usually estimates your monthly energy consumption based on what you've used in the past or a standard usage. You pay for estimated consumption each month or quarter. You'll find out how much gas and electricity you've actually used when your energy supplier reads your meter. You'll then be asked to pay more if you've used more than estimated.

Fixed price plan With a fixed plan, the amount you pay for each unit of energy is fixed for certain period of time. This means you're protected if gas and electricity prices go up.

Green energy This is energy derived from renewable or clean source, such as hydro energy, wind energy, solar energy and biofuels.

Hydro energy Hydro energy is generated from moving water, which is most often done using hydroelectric dams. These dams use falling or flowing water to rotate turbines, which in turn run a power generator.

Kilowatt hour (kWh) Units of electricity are measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). One kilowatt hour is 1 kilowatt (1,000 watts) of electricity. used for one hour. Electrical appliances are rated in watts or kilowatts. So, if you use a 1,000 watt appliance for an hour, you will have used 1 unit of electricity. Gas companies convert the figure shown on your meter into kilowatt hours.

Nil service charge / No Standing Charge Some plans don't have a standing charge - a fixed charge made by the energy supplier for every day you are connected to the gas and electricity network. This type of plan is referred to as nil service charge. However, they may charge more per unit of electricity or gas.

Online plans Gas and electricity plans that are predominantly managed via the internet. Many plans will only require sign up online and will allow customers to continue to receive paper bills.

Ofgem Ofgem is the regulator for the gas and electricity markets in Britain.

Prepayment meters With a prepayment meter, you pay for your energy supply when you use it. Although prepayment meters are often used for help with budgeting, Uswitch and Ofgem research shows that they are often more expensive than low-cost online gas and electricity plans. More about prepayment meters

Renewable energy This is energy that comes from sources that renew themselves naturally - for example, water, wind and the sun.

Single fuel plans You have a single fuel plan when you buy your gas and electricity from separate suppliers . This is usually more expensive than opting for a dual fuel deal, but you'll need to check to be sure.

Social plans Energy companies must provide these plans for their most vulnerable customers. They must be equal to the energy suppliers cheapest deal. If more than 10% of your income goes on fuel, you may be eligible for a social plan.

Solar energy Solar energy is energy from the sun. It can be used to provide heat for water heating systems and to generate electricity using solar photovoltaic panels.

Standard plans These are the default energy plans - in other words, what you will have if you haven't chosen another type of gas and electricity plan. The precise structures of standard plans vary depending on the energy supplier, but they are usually among the most expensive.

Standing charge This is a fixed charge made by your energy supplier for every day you are connected to the gas and electricity network.

Tiers Energy suppliers often use tier-based billing systems, particularly if you choose a plan without a standing charge . You are charged one price for using gas and electricity units up to a certain amount, and another price for those exceeding it. The second tier costs are usually lower.

Wind energy Energy from the wind is used to drive turbines and generate electricity.

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