SSE energy review
By Emma Lunn | Monday, May 17th 2021
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.
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 had planned to merge its retail division with nPower but scrapped the deal in December 2018.
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 announced in February 2019 that it would be increasing its prices from 1 April 2019. The company said about 2.1 million customers on its standard variable tariff would be affected, with the price of bills going up by about £117 a year.
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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.
SSE fixed tariffs
SSE offers one, two and three-year fixed tariffs. The fixed period begins the day SSE starts supplying your energy.
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.
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.
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.
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 2018 saw SSE come 22nd out of 30 energy companies. Which? readers gave it three stars out of five for billing, helping customers to reduce energy use and value for money. Its phone-based and online customer service scored four stars. SSE may have come a fair way down Which?'s table but it beat all of its Big Six rivals.
Ofgem figures show that SSE gets a comparable level of complaints to other energy firms of a similar size. But the provider is ahead of the other Big Six providers when it comes to how many complaints are resolved by the end of the next working day, and how many complaints are resolved within eight weeks.
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 2018 was 65% natural gas, 5% nuclear, 7% coal, 21% renewables and 2% 'other'.
All of this shows that SSE is behind the UK average when it comes to using renewable energy sources. There are a number of smaller providers offering greener energy tariffs than SSE, with some offering 100% renewable electricity.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.