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Questions & Answers on switching your electricity provider
When does switching pay?
Switching your electricity provider almost always pays! Even if you find a new offer cheaper only by a few cents per kilowatt hour, switching will pay off in the long run. Based on a two-person household with an annual electricity consumption of about 3,000 kilowatt hours, you can expect annual savings of at least 30 euro by switching your power provider. As you see, regularly comparing electricity providers can pay off greatly.
How often should I switch electricity providers?
You’ve seen that switching electricity providers is quite simple. For the best and long-term savings, you should switch electricity providers fairly regularly. Usually a minimum term is 12 months. If you don’t switch within this time period you’ll receive the bonus payments offered. However, it is advisable not to just assume that your provider is still the most affordable. After the minimum contract term is up, you should at least make another comparison of electricity providers to verify that yours still has the best offer for you. If not, simply switch again for savings and improved service.
Do I get different power if I switch providers?
In reality every power consumer who switches providers receives the same power as everyone else. The new provider merely redirects electricity into the public grid. Since all consumers are plugged into the public grid, all get the same power.
If I switch electricity providers, will my current provider refund payments already made?
Yes. You will receive a final account statement showing all payments which have already been made that your current electricity provider must refund. The amount will then be either transferred to your bank account or sent as a check.
Does switching electricity providers entail any risks?
You incur no risks when switching electricity providers. You are entitled to uninterrupted electricity supply. If your new provider encounters any complications initializing power supply, a basic utility provider will supply your electricity temporarily. You also needn’t worry about having to pay two electricity bills at once. This can only happen if you select a pay-in-advance rate and the provider files for bankruptcy, since no prepayments can be refunded in this scenario. That’s why we advise against opting for a pay-in-advance electricity offer.
Can I switch electricity providers with a night storage heater?
The procedure for switching electricity providers for a night storage heater is basically the same as for regular households. There are merely a few exceptions to consider. A night storage heater switches between more expensive day and more affordable night current. This can mean that either A) one two-tariff meter or B) two one-tariff meters are hooked up to your night storage heater. If you have two one-tariff meters switching electricity providers is no problem. However, if you have a two-tariff meter it is advisable to ask your new provider if they provide this service. Only local providers differentiate between day and night current. If you switch to a nationwide provider, you will forfeit this more affordable off-peak electricity and receive your power at regular household rates.
Can I switch electricity providers with a heat pump?
At present, the choice of electricity providers for heat pumps is somewhat limited. Local providers have specialized in this field and usually have the most affordable offers. Since the range of companies is somewhat narrow, the German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagenzur) is attempting to widen the playing field. As a consequence, switching electricity providers with a heat pump is not as simple as for regular households. There are a few things to consider. There are two cases when switching is an option. The first is a heat pump that is continuously provided with power. In this case it is possible and advisable to make a comparison of electricity providers to find the most affordable offer. Even if the pump is hooked up to a private electric meter, a switch of household electricity providers can be done. But there are other cases when switching power providers is not possible. If your heat pump is removed from power supply for peak load times, this typically affordable power from the basic utility provider usually cannot be underbid due to the high transmission fees. Apart from that, there may be several technological hurdles in the way of switching. At present only local providers offer special rates for heat pumps. If the local utility company does not have a special heat pump rate, consumers with a heat pump are charged the regular household rate.
Does switching electricity providers cost anything?
Don’t worry, for you as the customer of an electricity provider, a switch is free. In fact, switching usually puts a bunch of money in your pocket instead of lightening it.
What changes should I expect if I switch electricity providers?
You can lean back and enjoy the savings switching brings, because it brings just that and hardly any changes. Obviously, your electricity bill will come from your new power provider who now feeds power into the public grid and pays a user fee to the public network operator. The public network operator makes sure your power is supplied and is responsible for the maintenance of power lines and meters. No changes are made to your meters, either – they remain untouched. And your right to electricity supply is legally secured. This guarantees that you needn’t worry about power outages or supply gaps, since the local basic utility provider is obligated to supply power in case your new provider is unable to do so for whatever reasons.
How long is the waiting period for switching electricity providers?
The waiting period is usually about 6 to 8 weeks. This period is regulated by legally binding terms. In some cases the waiting period may lengthen due to contractually binding cancellation terms. The cancellation term begins once the switching application is filed with the new provider. Also, rates that include prepayments, cash down payments or deposits may lengthen the waiting time since providers typically await safe receipt before beginning the switching process.
When should I note down the meter reading?
Definitely note the meter reading on the day of switching and before any price increases. Doing so will help you maintain a better and more exact day-by-day overview.
What changes when I switch electricity providers?
You can expect a few minimal changes you may not even notice once you’ve switched power providers. The first time you’ll notice the switch is when you review the cheaper bill from your new provider. Otherwise things remain as before. You’re still supplied with electricity since your new provider feeds power into the public grid and pays the required user fee. Maintenance and meter reading still remain the responsibility of the local network operator, so no changes are made to your lines or meters. You are legally protected from power shortages or outages.
What is the Renewable Energies Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz)?
The Renewable Energies Act seeks to increase the proportion of energy won from renewable energy sources. In the past, power providers had refused to take advantage of renewable energy sources since doing so often entails higher expenditure. The Renewable Energies Act now stipulates that individual companies are obligated to launch campaigns to win energy from renewable resources, and this energy must be remunerated. At the outset, this means higher costs for utility companies, but the motivation to rely more heavily on renewable energy resources also rises. The goal of this legislation is to increase the percent of renewable energy production to at least 20 percent by 2020.
What is the difference between network operators and electricity providers?
A network operator provides and maintains the grid (power lines, substations, etc.) for the transmission of electricity. The operator is responsible not only for maintenance but also for preventing transportation complications. An electricity provider, on the other hand, feeds electricity into to the public grid. In some cases the network operator and electricity provider may be the same entity. This is so in the case of public utility companies. If an electricity provider is not identical with the network operator, it is legally required to pay a utility user fee to use the public grid.
What is "duty to supply" (Versorgungspflicht)?
The duty to supply guarantees security of supply for all electricity consumers. It entails that paying electricity consumers have the right to uninterrupted service, which precludes power outages or shortages. All electricity providers are legally bound to this duty to supply. Customers are also protected from power outages when switching electricity providers. A customer is only then no longer entitled to this right if electricity bills go unpaid.
What is green energy? Who provides it?
Green energy refers to electricity won from renewable resources. Such sources include wind, water, solar and biomass-derived electricity. Conventional energy is won mostly from fossil fuels that are usually either very harmful to the environment, hazardous or only available for a limited time. The most common sources here are brown coal, uranium or mineral coal. Unfortunately, renewable energy sources have not yet been able to entirely cover the massive demand for electricity worldwide. But as a consumer you have the opportunity to help nudge the industry toward a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future. But who offers green energy? Today many electricity providers provide green energy, however most green energy offers are not comprised entirely of clean power but rather contain only a certain amount. Only a few providers, such as Greenpeace Energy, supply purely green energy. Conscientious consumers who wish to use green energy are encouraged to inform themselves on offers from individual providers.
What to do if I run into problems with power meters or lines?
Even if you decide to switch electricity providers, the basic utility provider will take care of any electrical needs. This means that your electricity bill will come from your new provider, but the service and maintenance work remain the responsibility of the basic provider. Should you have any questions or problems, contact the same basic utility provider as before. The basic utility provider is also responsible for meter readings and any necessary repairs and maintenance. Even if your new electricity provider, for whatever reasons, is unable to provide you with power, the basic utility provider is legally bound to jump in and ensure uninterrupted electricity supply. For any questions or problems, contact your local basic utility provider.
What to consider when filling out the document to switch providers?
The most important thing to remember is to fill out all required documents! And of course, all the information provided must be correct. You'll need to provide various data, including information on your person. Also required are the name of your current electricity provider, your customer number, your electric meter number and current meter reading. All this information is necessary to switch to your electricity provider and cancel your old one. Usually you can specify your desired delivery date for your new electricity service, the day from which you receive power from your new provider. If you specify no date, the switch will be done as quickly as possible. You'll find most of the information you need on the last page of your latest electricity bill.
What should I know if I'm switching from a nationwide to alternative electricity provider?
Switching from a nationwide provider to a provider of alternative electricity is no different than switching from a local power provider. You'll just want to pay closer attention to cancellation periods and contract duration. If you miss the cancellation period, you'll only be able to switch providers after the contract duration is up. Some contract durations are as long as a year, so double check to be sure.
What happens if my electricity provider files for bankruptcy?
You never have to worry about going without power, not even if your new electricity provider happens to go bankrupt. In emergency cases, the local utility provider is legally obligate to jump in and supply electricity. This is also the case if your provider goes bankrupt.
What is a Sonderabschlag?
A Sonderabschlag, "special payment", is a one-time payment some power providers may require. It is sort of like a deposit, which allows the provider to offer the customer electricity at a lower kilowatt-hour rate. Usually customers can select between various special payments. The higher the payment, the higher the rate rebate the provider can offer. That means your kilowatt-hour rate will be lower if you pay a higher Sonderabschlag. This one-time payment can be due either at commencement or termination of contract, or offset against regular monthly payments.
What is meant by "transmission"?
Generally speaking, transmission means the transpiration of electricity from its place of generation to the consumer. This transportation takes place through power lines belonging to a network operator. In order to be allowed to use the network, electricity providers must pay a user fee.
What cancellation periods should I be aware of?
In terms of cancellation periods, we can distinguish between a basic utility and alternative electricity provider. A basic utility provider usually has a cancellation period of one year to the end of the following calendar month. If you've already switched to an alternative electricity provider, the cancellation period you need to heed will be in that contract. Cancellation periods vary from offer to offer and depending on your provider. Cancellations of a running contract with an electricity provider must be in written form unless stipulated otherwise in the contract.
Who is my electricity provider if I've never switched providers or products?
If you've never switched electricity providers then you're still in your initial service contract. That means you're receiving power from your basic utility provider. A basic utility provider is the electricity provider in a given network that provides the most homes with electricity. Usually a basic utility provider will be the local public utility company.
Who can switch electricity providers – tenant or landlord?
As a rule tenants have the right to switch electricity providers. The tenant and his/her family are the only ones to use the new electricity since each household has its own access to the public power grid. But as a tenant there are still a few things you should know. If the tenant receives the electricity bill, the landlord needn't be informed about the switch. If the electricity supply runs via the landlord, the tenant must inform the landlord of the switch and sometimes even include him/her in the decision.
How high is my power consumption?
Your individual power consumption (wattage) will vary. Check your last electricity bill to find yours. On average a one-person household has wattage of about 1600 kilowatt hours. The average power consumption for a two-person household is around 2800 kilowatt hours. A three-person household has an average annual power consumption of around 3900 kilowatt hours, a four-person household around 4500 kilowatt hours and last but not least a five-person household uses on average about 5300 kilowatt hours annually. The nationwide annual power consumption in Germany comes to about 450 billion kilowatt hours, of which industry alone about 240 billion comprises. The largest German electricity producer is RWE; the company produces more than a third of Germany's total need.
How can I calculate electricity costs for various devices or appliances before purchase?
Calculating an estimate of how much electricity a given device or appliance will use before purchase is a great help for estimating costs and budgeting. Especially devices you use daily or those that you suspect of having a high consumption. There are various methods and ways to calculate the value. First it is possible to check the labels on the device itself. Or you can determine the value by using various tables and graphs. This method relies on average values and can be very helpful for rough estimations. For instance, a television in a two-person household uses on average up to 140 kilowatt hours. You can find overviews online or request them from the manufacturer. A further possibility will take a little effort but is one of the more reliable methods of calculating the power consumption of various devices and appliances. Hook up an ammeter for a predefined period to the device in question and measure its consumption. This value can then be projected for a longer period, for example year's time.
How often can I switch electricity providers?
There are hardly any barriers stopping you from switching electricity providers as often as you deem necessary. You'll just want to pay attention to the cancellation periods of individual providers. As soon as the period is up you can switch to a new provider. Switching from your old provider to a new one is easy as pie. As long as you keep the cancellation period you can switch as often as you like. For this reason it is advisable to compare electricity providers several times a year to always be sure you have the best offer.
How secure is electricity supply?
The German power grid is one of the world's safest. On average, German citizens have to put up with only about 28 minutes of power outage a year. That puts them far ahead of the French who go on average about 59 minutes without power annually. In addition, all German citizens who pay their electricity are legally protected – in all cases except uncontrollable power outages a paying consumer is supplied with power, if need be by the basic utility provider.
How can I switch electricity providers?
Switching electricity providers is really easy. Use our service to compare electricity providers to find the best one for you. Then fill out the necessary documents you find directly on our site in most cases. This can be done online or you can print them and send by mail. Then your work is done. Until the switch is made, you'll receive electricity from your current provider. The switch itself happens seamlessly, so you don't have to worry about going without power at all. You are even legally safeguarded in that respect. You don't even need to bother cancelling your old contract: your new electricity provider will take care of that, too.
How does a thermal power plant generate electricity?
Thermal power plants are among the most important suppliers of electricity in Germany. In a thermal power plant, heat is converted into electrical energy. First of all, heat is withdrawn from a given energy source and bound to a new substance, such as water vapor. In a thermal engine, some of the heat is then converted by being expanded and thus fueling a hydraulic turbine. Then the heated water vapor is channeled out of the thermal engine and so emits heat to the surroundings. This heat is then converted to kinetic energy and then with the aid of a generator to electric energy or electricity. In most cases, the heat required is produced on site in the power plant by burning certain fuels. However, for this step solar or geothermal heat can be used. One great disadvantage of this thermal power plant is the great amount of unused generated heat.
When do I need a two-tariff meter? How does switching work?
A two-tariff meter is used to bill used power at different rates. At different times, electricity can cost different rates. For instance, if a household uses both on and off-peak electricity (sometimes called day and night current) both these rates must be billed differently. Night current is cheaper and is billed at a low load rate. Households that use electricity at different rates should be aware of a few exceptions when switching electricity providers. If you switch to a non-local provider, it is likely that your new provider will no longer differentiate between rates. That means you are billed for your power use at one rate regardless of the time. Customers who have both an on and off-peak rate should check if switching to one rate may not save a little money. However, it is advisable to verify beforehand whether the new provider accepts customers with a two-tariff meter.
Where do I find my annual power consumption?
To find your annual power consumption just check your latest electricity bill. If it's not at hand you can get a rough idea from average values based on the number of persons in your household. For instance, a two-person household uses on average 2800 kilowatt hours annually. A four-person household uses on average 6000 kilowatt hours. Besides our free and non-binding comparison service, you can also find an overview of average energy consumption values.
Why am I required to enter my postal code for comparing electricity providers?
To provide you with the most exact list of possible electricity providers we need to limit the search to your region. Not all providers supply power nationwide to all households. Providing your postal code helps us narrow down the search and improve our service to you by showing you a list of providers that really come into question. Your personal information is of course treated confidentially.
What is prepayment and why is it advisable to avoid it?
Prepayment is a condition of payment used by a few electricity providers. Basically, you have to pay before you receive the service. As a rule, German power companies use other payment methods. This is due not least to the fact that for prepayment the customer carries the greatest risk. Once you've paid, it's difficult to get your money back even if the provider doesn't supply the goods. Even in case of bankruptcy, you cannot get a refund. For these reasons we advise you to avoid choosing a new provider who requires prepayment for services.
What documents do I need to switch electricity providers?
You don't need any further documents for our service. Just use our free, non-binding comparison service and enter your required info there. You will find our annual power consumption on your last electricity bill or you can use an average value from the provided table. To use our electricity provider service you need no further documents. Just send the form filled in with your info to your new electricity provider who will take over all further steps. Your new provider will cancel your contract with your current provider in due time. Of course, you'll still receive uninterrupted power at all times. As soon as the switch happens and you're no longer supplied by your old provider, your new electricity kicks in automatically so you'll never even notice the change.
What happens with my personal information?
You don't need to worry about your personal information. Online you only provide your annual power consumption and postal code. If you decide to switch electricity providers, you have a few options to do so. You can switch online right away. To do so, you fill out the form with your personal information and receive all important information by email. We make it a priority to treat your personal information confidentially. If you opt to have the documents sent by mail, all we need is your street or email address. This information we also treat confidentially.
I already have an electricity provider. Why should I switch?
Solely for price reasons. Switching electricity providers can save you hard cash money! Technically nothing really changes for you. The type and quality of your power will remain the same, since all providers feed their electricity into the public grid. So actually you're still getting your power from your local network, just the bill comes from your new provider.
What advantages are there for me?
Switching electricity providers means first and foremost that your next bill will be cheaper! And there are no disadvantages. You're still supplied with uninterrupted electricity as always. Even if your new provider should happen to go bankrupt, your regional utility provider is legally bound to assume its customers and supply them with electricity.
What happens if something goes wrong when switching?
Even if something should happen to go wrong, no one will be cut off from power overnight. In all emergency cases, the local utility provider will take over your electricity supply. Nevertheless it is always advisable to verify whether the new provider requires a prepayment before supplying electricity.
What's the legal situation like? What should I be aware of?
Free competition between the individual providers determines the market. The consumer has free choice of providers. After you've chosen your new electricity provider you just need to sign the contract. The new provider takes care of the rest, including cancelling your old contract. Of course, cancellation and contract periods must be followed so the switch may take a few months.