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
According to the latest Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy data, UK electricity prices per kwh were 17.4 p/kWh in March 2021—but the average kwh cost UK ranged from 16.8 p/kWh in Yorkshire to 18.6 p/kWh in Merseyside & North Wales.
Yorkshire has been home to the cheapest unit electricity rates for a number of years, where residents pay around 3% less than the average electricity cost per kWh.
|Area||Average variable unit price (p/kWh)|
|Merseyside & North Wales||18.6|
However, rates vary according to how you pay. While Northern Ireland tops the charts for highest prices for direct debit 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) and prepayment.
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 54% from 2010 to 2020. This historical average unit cost data is based on total bills for 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.
|Year||Unit cost (pence per kWh)|
*Note: the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy changed their calculation of bills from being based on fixed consumption levels of 3,800 kWh per year for standard electricity to 3,600 kWh per year in 2020. As a result, we have adjusted the published data for 2020 that reflects 3,600 kWh upwards to reflect usage of 3,800 kWh, to be consistent with previous years.
Standing (Fixed) Charges for Electricity in the UK
Residents of North Scotland pay the highest standing charges in the UK: £95.99 per year, which is 17.1% more than the UK 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 Yorkshire (£88.81) and London (£87.91).
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).
|Area||Average fixed cost (£/year)|
|Merseyside & North Wales||£80.0|
Note: Negative average fixed costs in the data for Northern Ireland are due to the reporting body's formal calculation methodology. While standard electricity tariffs in Northern Ireland typically do not have a standing charge as a fixed cost they may offer fixed-pence-per-day discounts, such as a direct debit discount. As a result, the discount in Northern Ireland is greater than the £0 standing charge so the average fixed cost is negative.
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?
Paying with a regular direct debit has historically been the cheapest way to buy electricity in the UK for quite a while; that is, direct debit contracts have the lowest variable unit prices on average.
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 9% more and fixed charges cost 22% more when paying by credit than paying by direct debit.
|Payment type||Credit||Direct debit||Prepayment|
|Area||Avg 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)|
|Merseyside & North Wales||19.8||£95.4||18.1||£77.9||19.4||£75.3|
If you're in a position to pay via direct debit, that has traditionally been the cheapest option. If you're looking to save money on your electricity bills, avoid paying via credit as this is now the most expensive payment method in terms of both variable and fixed costs. Those wanting to save can switch tariff or supplier. 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 Tariffs||Avg unit DAY price (p/kWh)||Avg unit NIGHT price (p/kWh)||Avg fixed cost (£/year)|
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 15.2 p/kWh for electricity on an Economy 7 tariff, which is in fact 13.8% cheaper than the Standard rate of 17.4 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 7% more expensive on Economy 7 tariffs than Standard tariffs
- Day unit charges are 15.6% more expensive on Economy 7 tariffs than Standard tariffs
- Night unit charges are 74.6% cheaper on Economy 7 tariffs than Standard tariffs
In a recent test Ofgem found that households saved £263 on average per year by switching.