Why do Octopus Energy hide their best tariffs?

Green Energy supply

My electricy and gas contract ends next month, so I’ve been looking around for a good deal. My current supplier is Octopus Energy, who I chose because they had quite good rates and claim to supply electricity that “comes from 100% renewable sources”. 1

Getting a quote

I got a quote from Octopus in their renewal email (and also requoted with them directly online), and got what seemed like a reasonable deal, on the tariff Octopus 12M Fixed February 2020 v1. I had a look on some price comparison sites, and saw that Octopus offered exclusive tariffs to them. For some reason uSwitch wasn’t showing the ability to take them up on that offer, so I had a look on Octopus’ own website again - they have a page that lists all their current tariffs.

I really hadn’t appreciated just how many tariffs they offered - the page loaded 74 live tariffs! On top of that, the page listed 775 historic tariffs that are no longer offered; given how young Octopus is as a company I was really surprised.

Potentially misleading “deals”?

Buried away below the listing for uSwitch Octopus 12M Fixed April 2020 v1 was an empirically better deal, no matter what your energy consumption patterns are - Octopus Exclusive Online 12M Fixed April 2020 v1! It offered the exact same standing charge (a fixed price per day to cover infrastricture costs, like gas pipes and overhead electricity lines), but with a unit electricity price 2.25% cheaper, and a unit gas price 7.5% cheaper!

I can’t think of a good reason why Octopus don’t offer this tarrif up when you quote directly on their home page - on the tariffs page they state:

For simplicity, we only show our most popular online tariffs during the sign up process, but if you’re interested in switching to any of our current tariffs, drop us an email to hello@octopus.energy.

The cynic in me says that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most people will see the more expensive tariff and sign up for it, making it their most popular tariff, meaning they are meeting their stated reason for only showing that one.

Generating Octopus quotes

Octopus offer their tariff information via a page on their website, which itself pulls the data from an open and free API, so I thought I’d write a quick script that gave you an honest quote from Octopus (I was bored).

Here’s the quote I got from Octopus’ renewal email:

Octopus Energy’s email

Here’s the output of my script (All of the json is being shown as-returned from the API, other than total_cost which is calculated from usage numbers):

{
    "display_name": "Octopus Exclusive Online 12M Fixed",
    "elec_standing_charge": "20.06",
    "elec_std_unit_rate": "13.48",
    "full_name": "Octopus Exclusive Online 12M Fixed April 2020 v1",
    "gas_standing_charge": "17.85",
    "gas_unit_rate": "2.10",
    "gsp": "_B",
    "live": "TRUE",
    "note": "",
    "total_cost": 546.3309
}

That’s over £50 cheaper per year!

This is extremely dissapointing stuff from a company that just recieved

… well over £300m of new funds injected into the business

Source

turning it into so-called “unicorn” (valued at over £1bn)

Get yourself a quote

The code that generates this can be found here. It’s pretty shoddy stuff but does the job. In the main python file, modify the variables (below) to match your own postcode and usage, then simply run it.

MY_POSTCODE = "SW1A1AA" # insert postcode here
ELECTRICITY_USE = 50 # units: kWh
GAS_USE = 50 # units: kWh

It will output a list of json objects, with each entry representing a quote from a tariff that is currently being offered (see the example above), with the lowest price at the bottom of the list.

N.B. the cheapest tariff shown will likely be the Octopus Tracker - this is a very interesting tariff that is probably not appropriate for everyone, so make sure you checkout the bottom two results to get a meaningful quote

Code comments

I’d considered rewriting the script in javascript and hosting it on this page, or at least making the Python version take arguments from the command line, but I didn’t (I wanted to play my current favourite switch game instead).


  1. The terminology in the industry can be a bit hazy (emphasis mine):

    For every 1 MWh of renewable electricity created by a solar farm or other renewable energy generator, OFGEM (the energy regulator) issues an accompanying certificate, known as a REGO. There are two ways for a renewable generator to make money from this energy:

    • Selling the electricity itself
    • Selling the REGO certificate.

    The certificate and the electricity won’t necessarily be sold together. Some suppliers will buy the renewable electricity but not the REGO certificate (for example large commercial customers that aren’t worries about proving where their electricity comes from). This means there can be lots of REGOs left over that other suppliers can buy to make their power appear green, when in fact they’re supplying brown (non-renewable) electricity on the wholesale market.

    Source

    N.B. I’m not making any comments about Octopus Energy’s “greenness” directly here - just a wider thought on how the industry works.

    UPDATE: Looks like Octopus are genuinely very green - here’s their blog post on ‘greenwashing’ ↩︎