Business energy meters are an essential component of commercial operations, providing the link between energy suppliers and their customers. Available in a variety of different types and functions, the business energy meters an organisation opts for will depend on its specific needs and level of consumption.
In the United Kingdom, there are three distinct types of business energy meters: standard, smart, and, for the purposes of this blog, what we will term ‘alternative’.
Standard meters are the most basic type of business energy meter, providing basic energy consumption information and the ability to monitor and manage energy usage.
Smart meters, meanwhile, offer additional features, such as time-of-use pricing, remote monitoring and control, and the ability to integrate with other smart devices.
Alternative meters are those that offer a range of unit price structures for businesses that are either large in scale or have atypical consumption patterns.
Understanding the different types of business energy meters available in the UK is essential for businesses to manage their energy consumption and bills effectively.
In this guide, we take a deep dive into these three main categories of meters, including how they are used and by which types of business.
But, before we begin, there are two acronyms we need to unpack.
MPAN and MPRN
MPAN and MPRN are acronyms that crop up a lot with all things meter-related. Meter Point Administration Numbers (MPAN) and the Meter Point Reference Numbers (MPRN) are unique reference numbers used by energy suppliers.
An MPAN is your electricity meter’s reference number and will be displayed on your business electricity bill, whereas the MPRN is for your gas meter and is found on your business gas bill.
They’re worth keeping a record of because you may need to produce them should you decide to switch suppliers to access a more competitive tariff.
Now, onto the meters.
A standard, single-rate meter uses one rate when measuring your business’ energy consumption. It can be likened to a domestic meter in that it must be regularly read, with the meter readings sent back to the supplier.
No matter the time of day or night, a standard meter will charge you the same amount for each unit of energy consumed, making it an ideal variant for offices, cafes, shops, and other businesses that use the bulk of their energy at peak times.
If you have a low energy consumption, you’re most likely to have a standard, single-rate meter. You can find out for sure by checking your MPAN, which will begin with 03 if you do.
Two-rate meters are slightly different in that they charge two separate rates depending on the time of use, with cheaper rates typically charged during off-peak hours.
Examples of a two-rate meter include an Economy 7 meter which offers a cheaper rate during a seven-hour window, and an Economy 10 meter which provides a lower rate during a 10-hour window. More on these later.
Another two-rate option is the evening and weekend meter, which charges a cheaper rate at evenings and weekends and bumps up the rate during the day; best suited for businesses such as restaurants and bars, where most energy is used during the evening and at weekends. The exact times when evening and weekend rates kick in vary from supplier to supplier.
A three-rate meter – often called an evening, weekend and night meter – charges three different rates: a day rate, a combined evening and weekend rate, and a night rate.
The higher rate is mostly charged for daytime energy use, with a lower rate applied to evening and weekend usage, and the cheapest rate is reserved for night-time consumption.
Their round-the-clock nature means three-rate meters are generally most suited to businesses that are busy throughout both day and night, such as hotels and clubs.
Smart meters are becoming increasingly common among UK businesses. Fully digitised, a smart meter measures, records, and transmits energy usage data in real time to both the energy supplier and the business customer. The data transmitted is also richer than that transmitted from a traditional mechanical meter and is more accurate.
The advantages of smart meters are many and include providing customers with detailed information on their energy consumption together with the ability to control and monitor consumption and identify and address inefficiencies.
Moreover, smart meters enable customers to access time-of-use tariffs, giving business customers even more control over their energy bills.
Although we briefly covered Economy 7 and Economy 10 Meters under the ‘standard meters’ section, they are less common and are better thought of as ‘alternative’.
Economy 7 Meters measure the amount of energy a business consumes during the day and night, allowing the energy company to charge different rates for electricity used during peak and off-peak hours.
Made up of two registers – one for the day rate and one for the night – an Economy 7 day rate is usually the more expensive of the two due to the nationwide increased demand for electricity during day time hours.
The main advantage of an Economy 7 Meter is its ability to help businesses save money by taking advantage of the different tariffs available, with night-time electricity consumption potentially reducing energy bills buy a significant margin. Economy 7 Meters are also easy to install, meaning businesses can immediately benefit from the cost savings.
Economy 10 meters, on the other hand, are the same as Economy 7s in that they facilitate different day and night rates, but the cheaper rates last for 10 hours instead of 7.
Typically, Economy 10s are used by businesses open 24/7 or overnight. However, precisely when the cheaper hours begin and end varies between different regions and providers. Depending on your opening hours, an Economy 7 meter might be a better fit.
Half-hourly meters are exactly what they sound like and take readings every 30 minutes before submitting them directly to the energy supplier. Businesses with half-hourly meters have supply numbers displayed on bills that start with ‘00’.
Large businesses that use 100kW or more of electricity every 30 minutes (such as warehouses, factories, and big office complexes) are legally required to have a half-hourly meter installed. Businesses that use 70kW or more of electricity every 30 minutes can also have a half-hourly meter fitted if they choose to.
Multi-metered MPANs are a rarer form of meter used by businesses with multiple sites. All meters within the company are connected under a single MPAN and are billed on one invoice.
Though they are more commonly associated with domestic use, businesses do sometimes use prepaid meters. A form of prepayment system where business customers purchase a block of energy online, over the phone, or at a shop, the power can be used once credited to the meter.
The main advantage of prepaid meters is that customers can purchase energy in smaller quantities to better control their energy usage. This is particularly beneficial to business customers with limited budgets or who prefer to avoid being locked into long-term contracts.
Prepaid meters are also a means of business customers avoiding credit checks and deposits, making them ideal for those with no credit history or poor credit scores. Nevertheless, prepaid meters can be inconvenient as customers must remember to purchase energy in advance, which can be costly due to the additional fees associated with prepayment. Moreover, customers cannot benefit from discounted rates offered by energy providers, as these are usually only available with post-payment contracts.
It’s essential to understand the different types of business energy meters available in the UK to make an informed decision about securing the best return on your investment in energy.
As we can see, there are various types of business energy meters. Equipping your business with the right one means you can more accurately measure your energy usage, identify the most efficient times to use energy, and understand the costs associated with your level of consumption.
At a time when energy prices are reaching record highs, businesses need to take every step possible to keep their bills as low as they can be. Ensuring you have the right business energy meter to cater for your usage could well prove to be the most important step of all.
As independent energy experts, Tariff.com is ideally placed to advise businesses on the best meters for their specific needs. We can also help you switch suppliers to access cheaper rates, renewable energy, or a combination of the two.
As part of your drive towards better metered energy, we will also be able to help you construct a plan that will get closer towards the much-envied status of being a net-zero company.
It is routinely the case that businesses first approach Tariff.com for advice on the best business energy meter for them but then stay to switch suppliers, seek guidance on sustainable practices, and invest in offsetting initiatives.
A conversation that starts by looking at meter options could well end with you soon becoming recognised as a net-zero pioneer and a benchmark by which other businesses in your sector measure their own success.
At Tariff, we’ve made a firm commitment to helping businesses of all sizes and industries go net-zero ahead of the Government’s 2050 target. As one of the UK’s leading energy switch providers, we’re in the ideal position to prepare your business for the future.
Whether you’re uncertain of how net-zero policies will impact your business, or you’re seeking a more affordable solution for your business’ green energy needs, we’ll provide a bespoke package that covers everything from finding the right provider, to organising all the paperwork, to finalising that switch over.
Get in touch today to find out more about how Tariff can help your business begin its green journey.