Find out what makes an energy plan ‘standard’ or 'default', whether you’re on a standard rate energy plan and what to do about it if so.
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What is a standard variable rate energy tariff?
A standard energy plan (or standard variable rate tariff) refers to an energy supplier’s basic, variable rate plan. Sometimes the plan name itself will have the word "standard" in it, but often it will not.
This standard plan is usually the most expensive tariff the supplier offers. In November 2020, the difference between the average standard tariff and the cheapest deal on the market was around £170.
A supplier’s standard plan is what any new customer who does not request a specific plan will be placed on: a default tariff.
For example, if you move house, you inherit the supplier of the previous tenant, and will automatically be placed on their standard plan (also known as standard variable rate tariff) when the supplier takes you on.
According the the latest figures from Ofgem (2019), 53% of UK households are on their supplier's default tariff (excluding those on prepayment meters). Around half of these customers have been on a default tariff for more than three years.
This plan will be usually be a "variable rate" which means your unit rate costs can go up or down at any time. More often than not, they will go up. These plans are the first to be affected when the energy companies announce an energy price rise. Either way, the rate is almost always the most expensive one you could be on, so it's important to compare energy deals and switch as soon as you can.
On the plus side, standard variable rate plans do not have an exit fee. That means you are free to switch to a new deal without facing a penalty at any time, because there is no set end date. As a result, these plans are sometimes referred to as "evergreen" tariffs.
Pros and cons of standard variable rate plans
There are no financial benefits to staying on a standard variable tariff. In most cases, it's likely the most expensive your supplier will offer. However, the one positive to this plan is that it will not have exit fees. You’re free to switch to a better plan at any time (and you should, as soon as you can).
You’ll pay more — as mentioned, standard variable rate tariff plans are very often the most expensive plan you can be on.
You’re not protected from price rises. Standard variable rate plans are the ones affected when suppliers announce price rises.
How can I check if I’m on a standard energy plan?
If you have never switched energy supplier, you are most likely on your supplier’s standard (and likely the most expensive) energy plan.
You might also be on a standard plan if you had fixed rate plans that have expired and you did not elect to switch to a new plan. Customers can be automatically rolled on to a supplier’s standard variable rate plan once their fixed rate deal comes to an end.
Some gas and electricity suppliers are rolling customers onto fixed rate plans known as “temporary tariffs”. These tariffs are very similar to — and likely to be as expensive as — a standard plan, with the exception that the rate is locked in for a year.
A temporary tariff will protect you from a price rise but not be the cheapest energy deal you can get. It will not carry an exit fee, so even though you’re protected from an energy price hike, you should switch to a cheaper deal straight away.
To check if your plan is standard, check the table below for a list of the big six's standard plan names and compare it against the name on your bill. For more information on energy bills, read the guide Energy bills - understanding utility bills
Big six's standard energy plans
|Standard (Variable)||£1137||Compare now|
|Standard Online||£1138||Compare now|
Prices are based on average bill sizes for a medium energy user on a dual fuel plan paying by monthly direct debit, and averaged across all regions. This table is updated hourly from Uswitch's database of all standard plans from the big six: British Gas, E.ON, SSE, ScottishPower, npower and EDF Energy.
Compare those energy plans to these energy plans
We've stated a few times that standard plans will be the most expensive energy tariffs out there. You can see the difference for yourself when you compare the standard plans from the big six to some of the cheapest deals available to switch to through Uswitch.
|Supplier||Plan name||Tariff type||Price|
|Next Exclusive v5||Fixed for 12 months||£1004||Compare now|
|100% Green 12m Fixed Apr21 v1||Fixed for 12 months||£1006||Compare now|
|Better Smart||Fixed for 12 months||£1023||Compare now|
|Energy Plus Home Protection v15||Fixed for 13 months||£1034||Compare now|
|So Cedar Essential v2 – Green||Fixed for 12 months||£1052||Compare now|
|Super Saver April 2022 B1||Fixed until 30 Apr 2022||£1053||Compare now|
|Octopus Exclusive 12M Fixed||Fixed for 12 months||£1057||Compare now|
|Next Online v4||Fixed for 12 months||£1070||Compare now|
|Better Energy||Fixed for 12 months||£1079||Compare now|
Prices are based on average bill sizes for a medium energy user on a dual fuel plan paying by monthly direct debit, and averaged across all regions. This table is updated hourly from Uswitch's database of all plans on the open market that are available in at least 7 of the 14 regions, with duplicate supplier plans removed.
How to change from a standard energy plan
Switching energy from a standard energy plan is easy because you can be assured you will not pay an early exit fee. To switch away from a standard energy plan, run an energy comparison to see all available plans for you.
Uswitch can help carry out the switch for you and no cables or pipes will need to be replaced or changed. The switching process happens at an administrative level between the suppliers so that your energy service is never disrupted.
Comparing and switching energy suppliers only takes a few minutes and you'll be notified of the date your gas and/or electricity supply will be switched. To find out more read the Uswitch guide. How to switch your supplier for gas and electricity.
Case study "Uswitch made finding a better deal really simple, and switching took only a couple of minutes. It saved me almost £500 annually compared to my current supplier's variable rate, and over £200 compared to their best available deal."
Adam, Uswitch customer
What are the benefits of a fixed plan?
A fixed rate plan gives you a guaranteed rate on the cost per unit of your energy. The rate will not go up during the length of your contract even if the supplier has announced energy price rises.
It can also provide peace of mind, but it's a good idea to keep looking out for better deals every now and again, and especially during the last few months of your deal.
Remember, once your fixed rate plan comes to an end you will automatically be switched to a more expensive standard variable rate tariff.