Martin Bale

Martin Bale Utilities

Utilities Specialist and Guide


Gas and its usage has a habit of being forgotten during the summer months unless it is part of a business process. A grave mistake. The summer months meter reading should be checked, just like electricity, and any usage compared with the business operation. If gas is used purely for heating then it should be nil and if for hot water in the kitchens, bathrooms etc this should be minimal. Any variation should be looked into.

More importantly the start of the summer months should be scheduled for maintenance, especially boilers, and obtaining the relevant documentation / certification that everything is in full working order. Your liability / required documentation under your insurance should be checked to ensure you have covered every aspect. If not, your insurer will not pay out the full amount and the personal liability under Health & Safety regulations may come into play. Worst case cineraria is a custodial sentence.

One final point. All boilers and equipment using gas should be run every month, and documented to that effect, to make sure they are in full working order. A useful defence if problems should arise.

Gas, like Electricity, is traded on a world market. Prices will reflect events, both natural and manmade, in far flung parts of the world. All suppliers buy off the wholesale market and resell to make a profit. They have to buy a proportion at spot (on the day) as well as forward months & even years ahead, so current events do not always allow a change in UK prices.

The UK market is split into two major areas Residential (Domestic) or Business (Commercial). The terms of engagement are totally different in each case and need to be understood. Each area is split into the type and size of customer and the capacity for risk.


First decide which one of the following types of customer you are:

  1. Must have the cheapest all the time and prepared to change each year
  2. All suppliers are same, so why bother
  3. Happy to spend time looking for the best deal, with a fixed rate, for the next 12+ months
  4. Wary of changing supplier because it is difficult and may involve loosing supply during the changeover
  5. It was good enough for my parents so I’ll stick with them
  6. Looking for one supplier they can trust for all utilities (not just energy) and only do the exercise once happy in the knowledge that each year they will provide a fair deal

There are separate rules for each type. Ignore media hype which has brain washed the population into thinking comparing prices or working them out is difficult. It is not. Go back to basics and remember cost and benefits are separate.

In 2004 I was responsible for buying business energy by the half hour and decided to investigate the residential market for my home energy.

The brief to myself was simple – do the exercise once and find a supplier I could trust long term, had consistent fair prices (not just the cheapest as they are usually short term).

It took me 3 months to find my trusted supplier (because there are any number, not just the big six) and have used them since 2004 with excellent service and customer support at all times.

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Commercial energy is in two major parts – those who buy gas by the half hour and those who do not. At this stage renewable energy is left on one side as this is a separate and specialist field.

Half hour billing customers should be working direct with a specialist company or energy provider to manage their risk and times when it is used. i.e. can production times be moved from a high price time/s to cheaper/cheapest times. This area should always be on the CEO’s desk not left to some hard pressed member of the business to make the decisions. For large businesses it is vital and requires a dedicated person with direct reporting into the CEO or Board.

Monthly/Quarterly billied customers (traditional meters) should first go to the existing provider for prices. Once obtained use a broker to place the business usage for tender in the the wholesale market. The many energy providers, not just the big six, will decide if it fits in with the portfolio of business they wish to supply. The brokers use a matrix of prices which the suppliers publish for trading to be done. They are liable to change at any time and some are only valid for 24 hours.