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SSE energy review

By Emma Lunn
Tuesday, February 5th 2019

SSE is one of the big six energy suppliers and a popular choice for millions of consumers seeking a reliable and affordable gas and electricity supplier.

So is SSE any good? Well, we've looked in detail at everything that SSE has to offer, from its tariffs and discounts to its fuel mix and customer service record, so you can decide if it's right for you.

About SSE

SSE stands for Scottish and Southern Energy. It was formed in December 1998 as a result of the merger of Scottish Hydro and Southern Electric. Since then it has acquired several other companies including SWALEC in August 2000 and Atlantic in April 2004.

SSE is a public listed company and the second largest energy company in the UK (British Gas is the largest). It supplies gas and electricity to more than 9.5 million customers. Its registered office is in Reading, Berkshire.

SSE trades under various names, including SSE, SWALEC, Airtricity and Scottish Hydro, depending on the region. It’s also a supply partner for M&S Energy. SSE has recently announced plans to merge its retail division with nPower.

How expensive is SSE?

Don’t be fooled into thinking big means better or cheaper. The big six energy companies are big because they have been in business the longest and, in the case of SSE, have grown their customer base by acquiring other companies.

In fact, SSE and the rest of the big six energy suppliers are routinely beaten by smaller suppliers on both price and customer service.

SSE last raised its standard electricity prices in April 2017, by an average of 14.9%. Dual fuel customers saw their bill increase by an average of 7%. The big six suppliers all raised their prices at roughly the same time and SSE customers saw the lowest increase.

Tariffs and contracts

SSE simplified its tariffs in 2012 after regulator Ofgem said energy tariffs were too confusing. A re-vamp of SSE’s product range saw its offering reduce from 68 different tariffs to just four ‘core’ tariffs.

SSE charges different rates depending on the region of the country that you live in. As well as your location, the best SSE tariff for you will depend on the size of your property and how much energy you use. You can enter your postcode on the SSE website to see the tariffs you’ll be eligible for and the cost.

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SSE fixed tariffs

SSE offers one, two and three-year fixed tariffs. The fixed period begins the day SSE starts supplying your energy. SSE’s ‘Fix & Shop’ tariffs come with Currys PC World or Love2Shop gift cards/vouchers.

If you opt for a fixed tariff, the price per unit of gas or electricity will remain the same for the fixed period. However, your bill might change, depending on how much energy you use. SSE fixed tariffs have a £25 per fuel exit fee if you leave before the end of the fixed period.

SSE will write to you between 42 and 49 days before the end date of your fixed tariff to remind you its ending. If you don’t take any action it will switch you to its ‘cheapest evergreen tariff’ when your fixed period ends. This tariff might not be SSE’s cheapest tariff, or the cheapest on the market.

Standard tariff

SSE’s standard tariff is its most flexible – you can leave at any time without paying an exit fee. However, it won’t be the cheapest tariff and it’s a variable rate tariff so if SSE puts up gas or electricity prices you will pay more for your energy straight away.

All-electric tariffs

SSE offers multi-rate tariffs for customers with Economy 7 or Domestic Economy heating. On these systems you get one meter which has two rates. One rate records the energy used during the day, and the other the energy used overnight. These tariffs are usually used by households with electric storage heaters, which you can heat up during the off-peak, overnight rate.

Compare today's best energy deals

Cable.co.uk currently recommends the following energy comparison sites. Click the logo to visit their site and find the best deal for you.

Customer service

SSE says it believes in making energy ‘simpler, more transparent and better value’ for customers. It was the first UK energy company to simplify tariffs and the first to stop controversial doorstop selling practises.

But the Which? energy customer survey in 2017 saw SSE come joint 24th (with Sainsbury's Energy) out of 31 energy companies. Which? readers gave it three stars out of five for billing, complaint handling and value for money. Its phone-based customer service scored four stars. The scores put SSE in the middle of the big six for customer satisfaction and it was beaten by E.ON and EDF Energy.

On the plus side, Ofgem figures show that SSE gets a relatively low level of complaints, compared with other energy firms of a similar size. In 2017 it resolved a higher number of complaints by the end of the next working day than the rest of the big six. Ofgem found 72% of SSE customers were satisfied with how easy it is to contact SSE and 71% were satisfied with its billing. Overall, SSE ranked in the middle of the big six suppliers for customer satisfaction.

How green is SSE?

SSE is the UK’s largest energy generator from renewable sources. It operates hydropower, onshore and offshore wind and biomass electricity generation plants across the UK.

SSE’s fuel mix is comprised of a number of different fuels such as coal, gas, nuclear and renewable resources (sun, wind and water). Energy suppliers are obliged to publish annual figures about their fuel mix. This includes both the electricity created by a supplier’s assets as well as the electricity purchased to meet customer demand. SSE standard fuel mix full year to March 2017 was 56% natural gas, 5% nuclear, 9% coal, 27% renewables and 3% 'other'.

SSE discounts

SSE offers a direct debit discount of £40 per fuel per year, when compared to using another payment method. Opting for paperless billing results in a £6 discount per year per fuel. So, customers who pay by direct debit and choose paperless billing can save a total of £92 each year.

SSE offers the Warm Home Discount. This is a one-off payment of £140 from the government towards your energy bill which you can get if you’re on a low income or certain benefits.

Reward schemes

SSE customers are eligible to join SSE Reward which gives SSE customers access to exclusive ticket pre-sales for the SSE Arena in Belfast, the SSE Arena at Wembley and the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. There’s also the chance to experience SSE customer lounges, and win prizes.

SSE offers fixed energy tariffs in conjunction with Currys PC World and Love2Shop. Customers signing up to these tariffs are given gift cards/vouchers. SSE customers can also earn Nectar points.

Other products

As well as energy, SSE also offers phone and broadband packages, home services such as boiler and heating cover, and boiler and central heating installations.

SSE energy customers are offered better terms on its telecoms products than non-SSE energy customers. Non-SSE energy customers pay a connection fee and prices are fixed for 12 months only, whereas SSE Energy customers don’t have to pay a connection fee if they sign up to SSE broadband and their monthly package price will be fixed for three years, not just one.

Smart meters

All energy suppliers in the UK are fitting customers’ homes with smart meters between now and 2020. SSE installs smart meters free of charge and gives customers an in-home display (Smart Energy Tracker or Smart Energy Monitor) to show how much energy they’re using. You can also see how much energy you're using by logging into your SSE online account.

Smart meters save you time as they send readings to the supplier automatically. This means you won’t have to read your meter anymore and your bills should always be accurate and up-to-date. They can save you money too – tracking how much energy you're using in real time could help reduce the energy you use.

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats allow you to control your heating and hot water from your smartphone while you’re out and about. If you buy a new boiler from SSE, you’ll get a free Tado smart thermostat worth over £200.

Switching to SSE

There are two main ways you can switch your gas or electricity supply, or both, to SSE – you can either go via a price comparison website such as uSwitch, or you can go directly to SSE.

Either way, the switching process normally takes about three weeks and there’s a 14-day cooling off period from the date you sign up. Note that if you want to, you can cancel free of charge during this time.

Using a price comparison website

A price comparison site compares all the energy tariffs on the market for you. SSE accepts switchers from price comparison sites – not all energy suppliers do.

Once you’ve entered your details into the price comparison site and chosen SSE, the site will manage the switch for you, contacting both SSE and your old supplier to arrange their changeover. Don’t worry – you won’t lose service and your pipes and meters will remain the same.

Compare today's best energy deals

Cable.co.uk currently recommends the following energy comparison sites. Click the logo to visit their site and find the best deal for you.

Direct switch with SSE

The other option is to switch directly with SSE. The process is quite similar. SSE will let your current supplier know you’re switching providers, and then tell you the date of the switchover. You’ll need to supply meter readings on, or close to, the switchover date. If you pay by direct debit you’ll need to give SSE your bank details.

Prepayment customers can switch to SSE if they have a debt of less than £500 on their meter. The Debt Assignment Protocol allows prepayment customers to change supplier and take any debt with them.

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