Average Unit Cost of Electricity in the UK 2021

Most recently, the average electricity bill in the UK was around £600 per year. But there's quite a bit of variation around the UK, due to differences in household energy consumption and the price paid per kWh for electricity in different regions. Additionally, electricity costs depend on how you pay: credit, direct debit or prepayment. See how your cost of electricity compares—and if you're thinking of switching read our Energy Switching Guide.

Unit Cost of Electricity per kWh, by UK Region

The average cost of standard electricity was most recently 16.6 p/kWh in the UK. Who pays the most? In 2019, Southern residents paid the highest variable rates for electricity at 17.5 p/kWh, which is 5.6% more than the UK average. North Scotland and North West residents pay the next highest unit costs for electricity, at 17.4 and 17.2 p/kWh, respectively.

The cheapest unit electricity rates were recently found in Yorkshire, where residents pay just 16.0 p/kWh, which is 3.4% less than the UK average.

AreaAverage variable unit price (p/kWh)
Northern Ireland16.1
South West16.4
South East16.6
Merseyside & North Wales16.6
East Midlands16.6
North East16.7
West Midlands16.7
South Scotland17.0
South Wales17.0
North West17.2
North Scotland17.4
United Kingdom16.6

However, rates vary according to how you pay. While Northern Ireland tops the charts for highest prices for prepayment options, those living in Merseyside & the South West paid the highest prices for electricity bills that work on credit (i.e., you pay when you receive your bill, typically every three months.)

Historical Energy Prices in the UK

Do you feel like energy prices have been rising? If so, you're right! Average unit costs have risen a remarkable 48.2% from 2010 to 2019. This historical average unit cost data is based on consumption of 3,800kWh/year as produced by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. We've used these figures which are based on fixed consumption rates to look at how unit electricity prices have changed over time, but since they are based on a fixed consumption rate you'll notice they differ from the figures shown in the region-by-region analysis shown above.

chart showing historical energy prices in the UK, pence per kWh
YearUnit cost (pence per kWh)

Standing (Fixed) Charges for Electricity in the UK

London residents pay the highest standing charges in the UK: £94.02 per year, which is 16% more than average. A standing charge is like the line charge on your telephone—it's a fixed cost you'll pay regardless of how much energy you use.

The 2nd highest standing charges are in Merseyside (£88.37) and the East Midlands (£86.78).

Northern Ireland is the only area in the UK where you don't pay a standing charge on standard electricity contracts (however, time-of-use contracts like Economy 7 may have a standing charge in NI).

AreaAverage fixed cost (£/year)
Northern Ireland£-
North East£80.71
North West£80.94
South East£81.58
West Midlands£83.15
South Wales£83.15
South West£83.91
South Scotland£85.24
North Scotland£86.61
East Midlands£86.78
Merseyside & North Wales£88.37
United Kingdom£81.08

Here's How Your Electricity Costs Change with Payment Type

How you pay for electricity (i.e., credit, direct debit or prepayment) will affect both your variable unit charges and your standing charges.

What's the cheapest way to pay for electricity?

As you can see from the data below, paying with a regular direct debit is usually the cheapest way to buy electricity in the UK.

Interestingly, prepayment meters used to have the highest standing (fixed) charges, costing households an additional £20 per year vs. paying via direct debit back in 2017. However, the highest charges for electricity (both variable and fixed) are now paid by those using credit (paying by "credit" is when you get a bill from your supplier which you then pay with a cheque, cash, credit card, etc.). In fact, average variable charges cost 4.6% more and fixed charges cost 34.9% more when paying by credit than paying by direct debit.

Payment typeCreditDirect debitPrepayment
AreaAvg unit price (p/kWh)Avg fixed cost (£/year)Avg unit price (p/kWh)Avg fixed cost (£/year)Avg unit price (p/kWh)Avg fixed cost (£/year)
East Midlands17.1£108.0416.2£78.5114.5£100.12
Merseyside & North Wales18.7£105.5717.2£82.0615.5£91.10
North East18.2£97.0616.5£78.8915.5£72.38
North Scotland18.4£105.0917.7£76.0116.0£101.15
North West17.9£96.7816.5£75.7615.0£83.82
Northern Ireland17.1£-16.6£-16.8£-
South East18.3£95.9016.9£77.4115.5£85.91
South Scotland18.3£93.2916.5£81.3514.8£89.40
South Wales17.8£105.2817.1£74.0815.9£90.06
South West18.7£97.8217.4£78.3116.0£94.57
West Midlands18.3£98.7516.5£76.9815.2£91.00
United Kingdom17.8£97.7416.6£75.0715.1£85.12

If you're in a position to pay via direct debit, that is usually the cheapest option. If you're looking to save money on your electricity bills, looking into switching tariff or supplier can be a useful exercise. To learn more, see our guide on Energy Switching.

Are Standard or Economy 7 Electricity Rates Cheaper?

Economy 7 tariffs have cheaper night rates by 41.9% vs. a normal, single rate Standard tariff, but the Economy 7 standing charges are 6.1% higher and the day rates are 22.1% higher.

Standard vs. Economy 7 TariffsAvg unit DAY price (p/kWh)Avg unit NIGHT price (p/kWh)Avg fixed cost (£/year)
Economy 719.99.5£89.8

Can you actually save money with an Economy 7 tariff? If you could manage so that half of your electricity usage occurred during the 7 off-peak hours, you'd pay an average on 14.7 p/kWh for electricity on an Economy 7 tariff, which is in fact 6.8% cheaper than the Standard rate of 16.3 p/kWh. But keep in mind that while you might be able to run your dishwasher and dryer during the "night" hours which vary but typically run from 11pm to 6 am, your fridge runs all day and you're most likely to use lights, your oven, your kettle and other high-energy appliances during the "day" hours.

  • Standing charges are 6.1% more expensive on Economy 7 tariffs than Standard tariffs
  • Day unit charges are 22.1% more expensive on Economy 7 tariffs than Standard tariffs
  • Night unit charges are 41.9% cheaper on Economy 7 tariffs than Standard tariffs

In a recent test Ofgem found that households saved £263 on average per year by switching.