There are a variety of costs involved in making up your annual energy bill, including location, property type and number of inhabitants. For this reason, comparing your energy bill with the national average, which for the record is around £1138 per year, can be something of a red herring when it comes to energy comparison.
Instead, another method of assessing your energy bills is to compare your electricity and gas prices per unit to their national or local averages. This way you can exclude the variables which are specific to your property and focus on the actual value of the energy you're consuming.
To break down electricity and gas prices by unit, we need to understand a little about how your bill is made up.
Unit rates and standing charges explained
When you disregard the other parts of your energy bill, the actual price you pay for gas and electricity is broken into two parts:
This is a fixed amount that you are charged each day, regardless of your energy usage. So whether it's a day with no usage at all, or a day of heavy usage, you'll be charged the same standing charge.
This is the price you pay per unit of energy you use per day. The amount paid for this part will vary entirely based on your energy consumption.
The unit rate for both gas and electricity prices UK wide are measured in kWh (kilowatt hours). The actual rate you will pay can vary based on your region and pricing plan, but the national average for electricity is 14.37p per kWh. The average for gas is significantly less at 3.80p per kWh.
Cheap energy deals will often offer a fairly cheap unit rate, but the standing charge also needs to be factored into the value of any potential tariff.
What is a kWh?
A kilowatt hour, the basic unit of energy usage, is calculated as 1 kW (1000w) of energy being used consistently for 1 hour. Almost all household electrical items have their wattage listed somewhere on the product or packaging. You can calculate from this wattage, for example around 900w on a standard microwave, how many kWh that appliance would use if it were to run for an hour straight (0.9 kWh in this case).
Average gas unit rates and fixed costs
According to government figures for 2019, the average unit price per kWh for gas was 3.79p per kWh. The average fixed costs associated with gas, including standing charges, was £94.43 per year. The regional breakdown was as follows.
Gas unit rates (per kWh) & fixed costs (per year) UK
- East Midlands 3.67p & £94.48
- Eastern 3.73p & £95.71
- London 3.94p & £99.29
- Merseyside & North Wales 3.82p & £93.29
- North East 3.69p & £91.93
- North Scotland 3.75p & £96.24
- North West 3.77p & £94.18
- South East 3.88p & £95.04
- South Scotland 3.76p & £94.08
- South Wales 3.79p & £93.89
- South West 3.96p & £93.67
- Southern 3.91p & £93.68
- West Midlands 3.78p & £93.49
- Yorkshire 3.69p & £92.51
We have put together a useful guide on comparing gas prices to help you get the best deal in your area.
Average electricity unit rates per kWh
The average cost per unit of standard electricity in the UK in 2019, according to government figures, was 16.6p per kWh. This cost varies depending on the region you live in, as follows.
Electricity prices UK per kWh:
- East Midlands 16.1p
- Eastern 16.7p
- London 16.0p
- Merseyside & North Wales 17.2p
- North East 16.6p
- North Scotland 17.5p
- North West 16.5p
- Northern Ireland 16.7p
- South East 17.0p
- South Scotland 16.4p
- South Wales 17.0p
- South West 17.4p
- Southern 16.6p
- West Midlands 16.6p
- Yorkshire 16.4p
Average electricity standing charges and other fixed costs
The average fixed costs (blanket term for energy charges that don't change with consumption, including standing charges) is recorded in government figures for 2019 as £81.08 per year. The regional breakdown is as follows.
Fixed costs UK per year
- East Midlands £86.78
- Eastern £82.70
- London £94.02
- Merseyside & North Wales £88.37
- North East £80.71
- North Scotland £86.61
- North West £80.94
- Northern Ireland N/A (No standing charges)
- South East £81.58
- South Scotland £85.24
- South Wale £83.15
- South West £83.91
- Southern £81.78
- West Midlands £83.15
- Yorkshire £80.87
Comparing electricity prices per kWh
When looking to reduce your energy bills, looking at electricity or gas prices per kWh can be a useful tool in calculating the true value of a tariff. However, other factors must be taken into account based on the usage of your property.
For example, a holiday home that's only occupied for two months of the year will not benefit from a tariff which offers a low unit rate per kWh but has a high standing charge, as a lot of the energy bill will be spent on standing charges for days the property is not occupied. Likewise, a property with mixed occupancy which uses a large amount of energy will not benefit from a tariff that offers reduced or no standing charge in exchange for a higher unit rate.
For these reasons the practical solution is to use an energy comparison tool like ours to compare available energy tariffs based on your specific usage requirements or to ensure you visit each individual energy suppliers website for a direct quote.