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Updated: 17/11/2023

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Business electricity bills have increased in price by 43% over the past ten years. Energy companies have blamed wholesale prices for the yearly price hikes, but are wholesale prices really to blame, or are non-commodity costs on the rise?

In this guide, we’ll provide a business electricity bill breakdown and assess how much each of the components costs per kWh.

The Three Key Components of An Electricity Bill

One of the leading business electricity suppliers, SSE, has broken down an electricity bill into three segments – each of which constitutes to around 33% of your overall costs each year. The graphic below shows how the costs are divided between:

  • 1: Commodity (or wholesale) cost
  • 2: Non-commodity policy (or government) costs
  • 3: Non-commodity systems and transmission costs (from the supplier or National Grid).

1: Government Policy Cost Components

A third of your electricity bill breakdown goes directly to the government to pay for environmental initiatives. There are five key components that you could receive a charge, these include:

  • Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs): A support scheme for the development of large-scale renewable electricity generation. The RO closed for new renewables generation in March 2017 with subsidy payments continuing for another 20 years.
  • Climate Change Levy (CCL): Introduced in 2001, the CCL is a charge only payable by business users and is designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs): Feed-in Tariffs were introduced to promote the installation of small-scale renewable and low-carbon electricity generation capped at 5MW installations. FiT consumer payments last for 20 years.
  • Contracts for Difference (CfDs) The current contract mechanism for low carbon generation, CfDs guarantee a fixed price for each MWh generated, which is the ‘strike price’. Contracts are 15 years in length. CfDs are auctioned and budgeted for by the government.
  • Capacity Market (CM): These are annual auctions for capacity to be provided by power stations, demand side response and energy storage; which is needed to maintain the security of supply. Procurement takes place four years ahead supplemented with a year ahead auction. The government sets the auction volumes.

Government Policy Costs and Charges

Below are the current charges paid by business users per kWh.

Charge Name 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Feed-in Tariff 0.243p 0.339p 0.445p 0.494p 0.547p 0.567p 0.587p
Climate Change Levy 0.524p 0.541p 0.554p 0.559p 0.568p 0.583p 0.847p
Renewable Obligation 0.866p 1.057p 1.286p 1.558p 1.882p 2.210p 2.310p
CfD Operation Levy 0.000p 0.000p 0.000p 0.005p 0.005p 0.005p 0.006p
CfD Levy 0.000p 0.000p 0.000p 0.001p 0.385p 0.536p 0.582p
Total 1.633p 1.937p 2.285p 2.617p 3.387p 3.901p 4.332p

Source: BEIS and others (see below). Data is shown for 12 months ending 31st March in each year.

There’s been a 165% increase in government levies from 2014 which added £540 per year to an electricity bill of a small business using 20,000 kWh.

Government Policy Costs Trend Graphs.

2: Transmission and Distribution Non-Commodity Costs

The second quadrant of non-commodity electricity bill charges comes from the use and maintenance of electricity transmission and distribution (T&D) systems. Typical T&D costs include:

  • Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS): The cost associated with transmitting electricity from power stations to grid supply points via the high voltage (HV) transmission network.
  • Balancing Services Use of System (BSUoS): Costs relating to the day-to-day operation of the transmission system, for balancing the grid.
  • Distribution Use of System (DUoS) charges: Applied by regional utilities that manage the distribution network to cover the cost of distributing electricity to premises.

Some suppliers provide customers with the option of having these costs split and shown separately from their wholesale price.

3: Wholesale Costs

The wholesale cost of electricity has remained relatively flat over the past ten years although prices fluctuate during different seasons. The so-called “day-ahead” price per MWh is £51 (or 5.1p/kWh) which is the same as the average prices in 2010/11.

Ensuring that your business is on a suitable tariff can help you save regardless of any fluctuations that may take place with electricity wholesale costs— especially if you are on a fixed-rate contract.

Commodity and Non-Commodity Costs

Now that all the different types of costs have been explained, we can see the impact they make to a current electricity bill breakdown by looking at the percentage charge for each item.

Non Commodity Electricity Costs Pie Chart.

Conclusion: Non-Commodity Costs Are Driving Prices Higher

The data shown above for policy charges originates directly from the government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

We’ve seen that the wholesale price hasn’t moved from 5p/kWh in ten years, but the government has increased its tax levies tenfold since 2008 from 0.456p/kWh to 4.332p/kWh in 2020. Therefore, it can be said that non-commodity costs are the cause of higher business electricity bills.

If you’re looking to reduce your business electricity prices, switching energy suppliers to a more affordable deal could help.

Compare business energy deals using our free comparison tool to find a suitable tariff for your business.

Data Sources:

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