What does it all mean?

What does it all mean? Well fear not, we’re here to let you know what the terms and acronyms stand for and what they actually mean to you.


AQ – Annual Quantity

Your AQ is how much gas you use in kWh per year. This takes into account the last 70+ years of usage in your house, as well as what the weather’s been like, so it’s pretty accurate as an estimate for what you’ll use. Energy suppliers will use this to work out what your annual cost will be, so it’s worth having it to hand when you’re looking to switch for an accurate quote.

Big Six

This term refers to the 6 biggest energy suppliers in the UK. These companies are: British Gas, EDF Energy, E.On, npower, Scottish Power and SSE (Scottish & Southern Energy).

Credit Checks

If you’re paying by Direct Debit, then your supplier might need to do a credit check. They’ll research your details and make sure you’ll be able to keep up the payments.

Credit Meter

This is the meter that most people have in their homes. It allows you to use energy before you have paid for it, hence the term 'Credit'. If you have this type of meter, you will pay either by direct debit, or cash or cheque on receipt of the bill.

DD – Direct Debit

Depending on what type of plan you’re on, you might decide to pay for your energy with a monthly Direct Debit. Your energy provider will work out what they think your annual cost will be and divide it by 12 to get you a monthly Direct Debit amount.

EAC – Estimated Annual Consumption                      

Your EAC is how much, on average, electricity your house uses in kWh per year. This is based on historic data to get an average consumption figure. Energy suppliers will use this to work out what your annual cost will be. It’s worth having it to hand when you’re looking to switch for an accurate quote.

Economy 7

Economy 7 electricity is a generic industry term for off-peak (night time) electricity. The retail price of each night time unit is approximately one third of the cost of daytime units and can be an effective way of keeping your home warm at lower cost (if you have storage heaters) or heating your water tank.

Gas Units & conversion

Unlike with electricity, where each number on your meter represents a kWh, gas is measured in units. The units are then converted into kWhs which is how you will be billed. So, when you read your meter you might see that it’s only clocked 7 units, but that converts into (roughly) 220 kWh. If you’re not sure about it, or you’re being charged correctly, remember you can always contact your supplier and ask them to clarify it for you.

kWh –Kilowatt Hour

A kilowatt hour (or kWh) the unit that energy is measured in. Every time your electricity meter clocks 1, that’s a kWh - so, when you’re looking at prices, it’ll show it as e.g. 11p/kWh. That means for every unit of energy you use, you’ll pay 11p.

TCR – Tariff Comparison Rate

The TCR is the tariff cost for a typical consumer. It can be used as a first point of comparison when comparing tariffs, as it will boil down the costs of a tariff into one p/kWh figure.

It’s good as an overall comparison, but you’re much better off researching the specifics.

UR - Unit Rate

The unit rate is how much you pay for every unit of electricity or gas you use (measured in kWh). If you use a lot of energy (which students tend to) this is one to look at. The lower it is in price, the less you’ll be spending, the more money you have for fun stuff.

SC – Standing Charge

A standing charge is a fixed amount that's applied to your gas and electricity bill daily. For any tariff with a standing charge you'll pay a daily charge and a unit rate. If you know your house will be empty a lot, then it’s worth looking for the lowest standing charge you can get.

MSN – Meter Serial Number

Unfortunately, this doesn’t refer to our childhood favourite messaging service. Your Meter Serial Number is a unique mix of numbers and letters across the front of your meter which is means you can identify your meter from your neighbours’ – this is particularly important if you live in a flat.

MPAN - Meter Point Administration Number

A unique number for your electricity supply. Your new supplier might ask you to confirm these numbers when you switch, and you can find them on any statement.

MPRN - Meter Point Reference Number

A unique number for your gas supply. Your new supplier might ask you to confirm these numbers when you switch, and you can find them on any statement.

Ofgem -  Office of Gas and Electricity Markets

Ofgem is a government department who are there to protect your interests and rights as energy consumers. They put in place practices and regulations that energy providers have to stick to, to protect you.


The Ombudsman Service is an independent dispute-resolution organisation that was established by an act of Parliament. It is free to use and (even better) its decision is binding on energy suppliers. If you feel that the supplier has not resolved a complaint to your satisfaction within eight weeks, you can take your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman Service. https://www.ombudsman-services.org/

Prepayment meter

This type of meter is one where you have to pay for your energy before you use it, by topping up a payment card or putting money into the meter itself. Landlords sometimes install these types of meters to avoid being left with a hefty bill after a tenant has left, and energy companies can choose to install these if a customer often slips behind on their bills.