Octopus Energy review
By Phil Wilkinson-Jones | Monday, May 17th 2021
There are a lot of smaller suppliers if you cast your eye beyond the big six, and Octopus energy is one of those that also claims to have some rather green credentials, with 100% renewable energy tariffs available. Primarily, it does this through investment in solar and carbon offsetting.
So let's take a look in a bit more depth. Do Octopus' green credentials stand up to scrutiny? And just how easy is it to switch? What does it offer in terms of customer service? Let's find out.
About Octopus Energy
Octopus Energy was launched in 2016 with the aim of disrupting the energy market and has since picked up an average of 30,000 customers a month – and lost a chunk as people switch around for the best deal. It now supplies energy to more than 400,000 UK homes and has been recommended by consumer champion Which?
Offering renewable energy as standard, Octopus has launched a number of tariffs over the past couple of years including the first in the UK to track the wholesale price of energy on a daily basis and one aimed at drivers of electric vehicles. It also supplies green energy to Arsenal Football Club and has partnered with Marks & Spencer to create M&S Energy.
In 2019, the Renewable Energy Association gave Octopus Energy is award for 'company that's done the most to advance UK renewables'. That's quite some feat when you have solely green providers such as Good Energy and Ecotricity in the race. However, it must be understood that a lot of this is achieved by offsetting – that is, investing equally in green energy sources set against the often non-green energy supplied.
How expensive is Octopus Energy?
Like any supplier, it all depends on when you look for a new deal. Sometimes it'll be on the very cheap end, sometimes it'll be more expensive than what you already have. If you're interested in signing up to Ocotopus, see if you can save money. Sometimes it will be the case, sometimes it won't.
That said, the small profit margin that Octopus Energy aims for ensures it is among the cheapest providers out there. The provider says the vast majority of what it charges customers is spent on wholesale energy costs, transmission and distribution, environmental and social obligations, third party metering costs and VAT. There’s just a 5% margin to pay staff wages and business costs and to invest in new technology.
The Octopus Tracker tariff, which follows the wholesale price of energy on a day-by-day basis, has been shown to be quite a bit cheaper on average than the standard variable rates offered by the big six.
Tariffs and contracts
Octopus Energy has a number fixed and variable tariffs as well as tariffs that cater for specific needs and one that tracks the wholesale price of energy on a daily basis.
Fixed and variable tariffs
There are various 12 and 24-month fixed tariffs available from Octopus Energy, both residential and business. Most of Octopus Energy’s fixed and variable (or ‘flexible’) tariffs include Economy 7 electricity, which offers cheaper electricity at night for those with compatible meters.
Agile Octopus is a tariff specifically designed for people who can shift their energy usage outside of the 4pm to 7pm peak. This would suit a household with storage heaters or someone who charges an electric vehicle overnight.
Customers signing up to this tariff get access to half-hourly energy prices that are tied to wholesale prices. This allows you to see exactly what you’re paying and you can save more money if you’re able to move your energy usage around depending on price fluctuations.
This tariff gives you a daily rate based on the wholesale price of energy as well as a breakdown of where your money is going, including the profit margin added on by Octopus Energy. Daily prices are also used to update your personal energy forecast for the next 12 months. The Octopus Tracker tariff does not support Economy 7 meters.
As there’s no minimum term contract, if you ever want to come off the Octopus Tracker, you only have to email the provider and they’ll put you on another tariff the next day.
Octopus Energy Go
Octopus Energy Go is purely for electric vehicle drivers and gives you very cheap electricity (5p/kWh) between 12.30am and 4.30am every night. Octopus Energy reckons a full charge on this tariff is on average 25% cheaper than typical Economy 7 night rates.
Octopus Energy offers customer service over email or social media from 8am to 10pm seven days a week. You can also talk to the Octopus Energy team by calling 0333 344 2268 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.
You’ll need to register to get an online account when you sign up. This will allow you to manage your account as well as do things like getting a referral code.
The provider operates a priority services register, to which vulnerable customers can be added. This allows disabled, chronically sick and elderly customers to nominate someone to manage your account on your behalf, get a smart meter or smart prepayment meter installed, set a pass phrase for Octopus Energy representatives to use or get help reading statements.
How green is Octopus Energy
Octopus Energy is pretty green, which is hardly surprising when you realise the provider is backed by Octopus Investments, a major investor in solar power responsible for nearly 40% of the UK’s large scale solar energy generation.
All tariffs use 100% green electricity, which means that for every unit of energy used by Octopus Energy customers, a unit of energy is generated from a renewable source.
Octopus Energy partners with a number of solar sites including North Laides Farm in Nottinghamshire and Hill End Farm in Hampshire and collectively during their peak generation periods these sites could power 80,000 UK homes. But because of the intermittent nature of solar power, the supplier also sources energy from wind and biogas sites, as well as bulk-buying renewable energy wholesale.
The commitment to ‘being green’ includes a drive to help people lease electric cars (via Octopus Electric Vehicles) and have the necessary equipment to charge it at home as well as on the road.
Octopus Energy discounts
Octopus Energy doesn’t currently offer the Warm Home Discount, or any online, dual fuel or Direct Debit discounts. This is because it tries to keep things simple – everything is done online and all payments are by Direct Debit, so savings are spread across all tariffs.
The provider also says it doesn’t think it’s right to penalise single fuel households, or to force customers to take gas and electricity from Octopus Energy just to get the best price.
All energy providers are currently in the process of installing smart meters for their customers. But Octopus Energy has said that the rollout is in a transmission period as the government works on upgrading the type of smart meter installed in properties.
The current SMETS1 meters don’t always work properly after you’ve switched energy supplier so are being replaced with new SMETS2 devices. But, as of March 2019, delays in the delivery of these new meters mean providers including Octopus Energy are having to temporarily suspend installations.
The availability of smart meters is particularly important for Octopus Energy as some of its tariffs (Go, Agile) can only be supplied to people who have a smart meter installed.
Switching to Octopus Energy
Most people switching to Octopus Energy will be all set up with 17 days and all will be covered by the Energy Switch Guarantee, which provides peace of mind to consumers, putting the responsibility for cancelling your older supplier in the hands of your new one and ensuring you have a 14-day cooling-off period in which you can change your mind and go back to your old supplier.
Octopus Energy runs a referral system that gives you £50 if someone you know signs up using your referral code. They also get £50.
You can also sign up to Octopus Energy by going to its website directly or by using a price comparison website, which will also show you other providers and how much you stand to save by switching.