Npower in 2020: Are they worth switching to?
NEWS: Npower is merging with Eon Are you a current Npower customer? Be aware that Npower has announced they’ll be merging with fellow Big Six supplier Eon Energy.
Npower was, up until recently, one of the biggest gas and electricity suppliers in the UK. Unfortunately, its poor customer service and uncompetitive prices were among the factors that sounded its death-knell. Npower will be no more and will soon merge with a Big Six rival; Eon. Find out how Npower went from riches to rags and everything else you need to know as a Npower customer.
With almost two decades of experience, Npower is one of the most seasoned energy suppliers in Britain. How did it get so big, so fast? Read on to discover how its rich history made it into an energy powerhouse.
Npower is a company that started trading under a different brand name and is the product of a merger with a larger German company; RWE. The timeline below illustrates the company’s inception and evolution within a corporate group that propelled its success in the UK energy market.
- 1998 - Hackremco Ltd, trading as an electricity distributor, was incorporated as a private limited company on 21 October 1998. In November 1998, Hackremco changed its name to National Power (Energy Co.) Ltd.
- 1999 - RWE Generation UK Plc is incorporated as a public limited company on 13 December 1999 as an electricity supplier. Its registered office is located in Swindon, Wiltshire.
- 2000 - National Power (Energy Co.) Ltd changed its company name to Npower Ltd on 1st December 2000. On 20th July 2000 Npower Ltd changed its name to Innogy Ltd, which then re-registered on 20th July 2000 as a public limited company, thereby trading as Innogy Plc.
- 2002 - Innogy Plc was acquired by German electric utilities company, RWE, for £3 billion.
- 2003 - Innogy Plc changed its name on 1st October 2003 to RWE Innogy Plc.
- 2004 - RWE Innogy Plc changed its name on 2nd August 2004 to RWE Npower Plc.
- 2014 - Npower's call centre in Fenton closed in June 2014. A reported 550 jobs were said to have been lost. The company’s decision to outsource its call center activity to India was criticised by Britain’s biggest trade union, Unison.
- 2016 - After Npower announced on March 2016 that it had lost 351,000 customers the previous year, RWE split off its renewable energy, network and retail divisions into the newly formed Innogy SE in April 2016. Npower was transferred to the new business and thereby became a subsidiary of Innogy SE.
- 2018 - Despite plans for a merger between SSE and Npower, SSE pulled out of the deal and it was announced that Npower would instead merge with E.on UK.
- 2019 - Npower announced in January 2019 that it would cut 900 jobs to save costs, blaming an "incredibly tough" retail energy market, as well as the government's price cap.
|RWE Npower Plc||02 Aug 2004 - 01 Jul 2014|
|RWE INNOGY Plc||01 Oct 2003 - 02 Aug 2004|
|INNOGY Plc||20 Jul 2000 - 01 Oct 2003|
|Npower||19 Jan 2000 - 20 Jul 2000|
|HACKUNLIMCO (NO.21)||13 Dec 1999 - 19 Jan 2000|
*For the purposes of clarity, we will refer to the supplier by its trading name, Npower.
Present Day: Key Npower Facts
According to Npower’s website, the company supplies gas and electricity to over 3.75 million residential and business customers. Its Home Services arm provides repairs to boilers and central heating systems through its Hometeam brand. Npower’s CEO is Paul Coffey.
Npower’s company name isn’t the only thing that has changed several times over the years, so has its position within the group of companies to which it belongs. The web of interlinking subsidiaries and their relationship to one another can seem mind-baffling. To clear the brain-fog, we’ll recap on the structure of Npower’s group, as well as its current plans to merge with Eon.
Structure of the group of companies
Npower forms part of the Npower Retail Group, which we shall refer to as “the Group”. The Group itself is owned by RWE and consists of 11 trading entities: six main ones and five ancillary (or “other”) ones. The six main companies operate in four core business areas:
- Home - residential customers.
- Npower Business - small and medium enterprise (SME) customers.
- Npower Business Solutions - industrial and commercial customers.
- Other - any other customer type not covered in the previous three categories.
Let’s break down the 11 trading entities into their corresponding four business areas:
|Trading entity||Home||Npower Business||Npower Business Solutions||Other|
|Npower Northern Limited|
|Npower Yorkshire Limited|
|Npower Gas Limited|
|Npower Direct Limited|
|Npower Commercial Gas Limited|
|Plus Shipping Services Limited|
|Npower Business and Social Housing Limited|
|Innogy Solutions Ireland Limited|
|PS Energy UK Limited|
Merger with Eon
A large part of Npower’s present-day activities is dedicated to preparing for its imminent merger with Eon. They were both part of the so-called Bix Six energy companies. Post-merger, the collective big powerhouse of UK energy suppliers will be known as the Big Five. This has huge implications, not just for the company itself, but for the energy market at large.
In January 2019, Npower announced that around 900 people would lose their jobs as a result of the merger. Eon will grow bigger as it takes on all of Npower’s customers, attaining the clout of British Gas within the Big Five.
Looking at the structure of the group of companies to which Npower pertained, is this a hugely significant restructure? Not really, it’s more of a reshuffle when we consider that the RWE, which owns Npower, also owns E.On, Eon’s parent company!
Shares and finance
As of the date of Npower Ltd’s latest Confirmation Statement published on 24 June 2019, the company has allotted 101,000,001 one GBP ordinary shares. They are all held by Npower Retail Group Limited, which is the sole majority shareholder.
The underlying operating loss for the group (Npower Retail Group) was reported at £147 million in 2017. This was according to Npower’s latest Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2017.
Npower in the news
April 2008, Npower was fined £1.8 million by the energy regulator Ofgem for the fraudulent sales tactics of its door-to-door salespeople. The allegations included misleading potential customers by giving false information. This was done with the objective of getting them to sign what they were told was “just a form”, which in fact, was a binding contract.
September 2013, Npower was accused of avoiding corporation tax for three years. This sparked public anger as millions of UK citizens were being pushed into fuel poverty while Npower made huge profits. In fact, its profits had totalled £766m throughout the previous three years from the date of the story’s publication. Npower denied any tax avoidance. Meanwhile, public interest groups such as 38 Degrees called for Npower customers to boycott or switch over to other providers.
December 2015, Npower was ordered by Ofgem to pay a £26m settlement over poor customer service and inaccurate bills to its customers. Ofgem launched an investigation into Npower’s widespread billing errors and poor complaints handling practices. This included chasing debts that were in dispute. Npower blamed their faulty IT system, which had issued 500,000 late bills, with little detail on how the totals had been calculated. As customers left, Npower’s losses were reported to the tune of £111m in the first nine months of the year.
January 2019, Npower announced that it would cut 900 jobs this year which would amount to a 15% cut to its UK workforce. This was in response to the supplier’s financial losses, which it attributed to the government’s price cap on default tariffs. Npower argued that this had made a huge dent in Npower’s revenue. The government contested Npower’s justification for the job losses, citing inefficiency as the real reason.
If we had painstakingly distinguished each of the 11 trading entities that make up the Group, it was for good reason. The fuel mix, or the ratio of different fuels or energy sources the supplier uses to generate electricity, is different for each trading entity. In other words, each of the 11 trading entities has their own fuel mix.
Before we go into the fuel mix of each trading entity, let’s see how they are divided into each customer type.
|Customer type||Licences supplying the customer type|
|Business customers** supplied by Npower Business Solutions||
*For domestic customers, please see the bottom of your bill for the particular licence you are supplied under.
**For business customers please see the front of your bill to identify whether you are a customer of Npower Business or Npower Business Solutions. For those supplied by the latter, see the reverse of your bill for the particular licence you are supplied under.
Below we’ve broken down the fuel sources for the electricity supplied under the different licences from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018. We’ve also compared these to the UK national average for the same period so that you can see how Npower fares against its competitors in the race to be green.
|Trading entity||Coal||Natural gas||Nuclear||Renewable||Other|
|Npower Northern Limited/Npower Northern Supply Limited||11.7%||62.0%||18.8%||3.6%||4.0%|
|Npower Yorkshire Limited/Npower Yorkshire Supply Limited||11.8%||62.5%||19.0%||2.8%||4.0%|
|Npower Direct Limited||11.8%||62.6%||19.0%||2.6%||4.0%|
|*UK national average||7.6%||41.2%||20.0%||29%||2.1%|
Activities and services
Npower’s activities can be divided into two sections: those for domestic customers and those for business customers. Since the supplier has more domestic than business customers, it naturally offers the former a larger range of products and services compared to the latter. Let’s look at both, delving into what you can expect from Npower if you’re running a household or a business.
Home Boiler Service
Npower boasts extensively about a service for its domestic customers, aptly called “Home Services”. This can actually just be boiled down to its boiler service. Let’s have a look at what this entails.
No hot water or heating can be a nightmare in the event of a boiler breakdown. It can be very expensive if you don’t have some type of boiler insurance cover in place. Npower has teamed up with insurance heavyweight Allianz Global Assistance to offer boiler breakdown cover.
In the event of a boiler malfunction, they’ll send a gas safe registered engineer to your home to fix it. You’ll be covered against the cost of any repair work and parts up to £1,500. Terms and conditions apply.
Npower offers two stand-alone boiler cover policies, as well as two combined policies that include both boiler cover and central heating cover. The four policies are as follows:
|Policy type||Boiler policies||Boiler and heating policies|
Boiler Cover Plus
Boiler & Heating Cover
Boiler & Heating Cover Plus
|Price per month*
(*if you choose a £99 excess)
- If you’re a landlord, note that they also offer specific boiler cover for landlords.
- You may be eligible for a free or subsidised boiler if you qualify for Npower’s ECO scheme.
We underlined the importance of home insulation as a key factor when measuring fuel poverty. Since most heat is lost through your roof and walls, ensuring that your home is well insulated is also key to creating an energy-efficient home. Npower offers three types of home insulation services:
1.Cavity wall insulation
A cavity wall appears as a single wall, but is in fact two separate walls, with a gap in between that is filled. The filling is what’s known as cavity wall insulation. The key benefit includes reducing heat loss to bring down your energy bills by as much as £250 per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust 2018.
2. Loft insulation
Loft insulation is the material laid on the floor of the loft, that can be made of several different materials. These include fibreglass matting, mineral fibre or mineral wool. It prevents heat from escaping as it rises. You could save up to £215 per year with loft insulation, according to the Energy Saving Trust 2018.
3. External wall insulation
We mentioned in our fuel poverty guide that older homes, built before 1945, will usually have a higher fuel poverty rate compared to newer homes. That’s because they have been built with uninsulated solid walls, instead of insulated cavity walls. The difference is that solid walls are just single walls, with no gap in between. If this describes your wall type, then Npower can offer you external wall insulation. According to the Energy Saving Trust 2014, the average savings you could make are as follows:
- £180 - Medium terrace or bungalow
- £270 - Medium semi-detached
- £540 - Medium detached
Solar Thermal Panels
Boiler cover and wall insulation are just two of Npower’s range of energy efficiency products. Another worth mentioning is Npower’s solar thermal panels.
Npower claims that they enhance the efficiency of your heating system by harnessing the sun’s energy to produce hot water. The solar thermal system is made up of “Solar collectors”. These could be one of two types:
- Flat-plate collectors enclosed within a glazed, insulated box. In effect, this acts as a mini-greenhouse to retain heat within the collector.
- Evacuator tube collectors have parallel tubes, each one containing a glass thermal absorber.
In both types, the "collectors" absorb solar energy and transfer it into thermal energy. This can then be used in a hot water cylinder.
Note that another service offered under Npower’s “Energy Efficiency Products” includes solar panels. However, due to the proposed cut to the Feed in Tariff scheme, Npower has stopped taking new enquiries for solar panels.
The Feed-in Tariffs (FiT) scheme was brought in by the UK government in April 2010. It rewards households that generate renewable energy and then send it back to the National Grid. Among the objectives behind the FiT scheme was to promote renewable energy in the UK.
The Feed-in tariff ended to new applicants on 31 March 2019. This means that no new households will be able to receive FiT’s discounted rates. However, households already receiving FiT will see no change in their benefits.
Smart meters are devices that communicate your energy consumption to your supplier. This means that you don’t need to submit any meter readings and still receive accurate bills based on your actual consumption. They also allow you to track your usage, highly beneficial when striving to be more energy efficient at home.
Npower began its mass rollout of smart meters to over 3 million customers in 2016, carried out region by region. Npower’s rollout was in response to the government’s target of having a smart meter installed in every household ensuring that every household by the end of 2020.
This is an overly ambitious deadline when we consider that suppliers are merely trying to get rid of their stock of SMETS 1 meters that could turn dumb, unlike the more updated SMETS 2 meters. Find out what the difference is in our guide to smart meters for business.
If you’re a customer with Npower and would like a smart meter, contact them to register your interest for one.
Despite much hearsay published in the press about a customer loyalty programme, Npower does not offer such a scheme. While it does have a vast rewards programme for its business customers, this does not exist for domestic clients.
It does, however, offer its domestic customers free annual membership to a leisure scheme called Take Time. Customers can get discounted deals, up to 50% off, on restaurants, travelling, hotel reservations and health and beauty services. Npower customers simply have to log in to their account to sign up for your membership.
If you’re one of the many homeowners around the UK who needs financial help with energy bills, Npower offers its customers a variety of grants. These are either offered by Npower itself, the government or from charitable trusts.
Let’s take a look at each of these three avenues of financial assistance to help you meet your payments.
1. Energy grants from Npower
The two payment-assistance schemes which are only available by application to Npower are the Warm Home Discount and the ECO Scheme. Although these are schemes are run by the government, your energy supplier must be a “participant” in the scheme. Since Npower is indeed a participant in both the Warm Home Discount and ECO Scheme, as a Npower customer, your grant will be paid for by the government. Npower merely processes the discount for their own internal records. Let’s take a look at both these schemes.
Warm Home Discount
The Warm Home Discount scheme is a one-off payment of £140 that is automatically taken off the sum total of your electricity bills between the period of October and April. As an example, for the coming year, this would be taken off your electricity bills between October 2019 and April 2020.
Find out more about the Warm Home Discount scheme and whether you’re eligible to apply.
To get a more detailed understanding of how this will be rolled out by Npower when you do apply, see our Npower Warm Home Discount guide (coming soon).
As already mentioned above, homeowners under the ECO scheme could receive home insulation services and/or boiler installation and maintenance, either free of charge or at a subsidised rate.
The scheme was made compulsory for the UK’s 11 largest energy suppliers, including Npower, to help homeowners with their heating needs. Npower has called this service the “Affordable Warmth” programme which aims to provide free or subsidised…
- Replacement boilers
- Cavity wall insulation
- Loft insulation
2. Energy grants from the government
Grants offered by the government are those which can be applied for directly to the relevant government department that runs the scheme. In essence, it means that you don’t have to contact Npower to apply for it, nor do you have to be one of its customers. Let’s look at two main government-financed grants to assist with payments for energy bills: the Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payments.
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is aimed at the retired and elderly to help them meet their energy costs during the coldest months of winter. It’s an annual one-off payment that can range from £100 to £300. The exact sum that you could receive under the scheme depends on your age and your circumstances.
Since the payment is not means-tested, the criteria for eligibility is fairly low. Find out if you are eligible and how to apply for the Winter Fuel Payment.
Cold Weather Payment
When average temperatures drop dramatically in the winter to 0ºC or lower for seven consecutive days, the government can help you out to meet your energy costs. The sum of £25 will be deducted from your energy bills.
You’ll get £25 for each seven-day period of cold weather (i.e. 0ºC or lower) between 1 November and 31 March of each year. Don’t worry if you’re receiving any other benefit, either listed above or elsewhere, as it won’t be affected by your receipt of the Cold Weather Payment. You’ll receive the payment into your bank account within 14 working days of every cold weather period.
Specific criteria must be met to qualify for it. Find out if you qualify for the Cold Weather Payment and who you should contact to get it.
3. Energy grants from charitable trusts
Npower has set up its own charitable trust and has also partnered up with other trusts to offer financial assistance to its customers. Originally known as the Npower Energy Fund, it has forked out into two main charitable trusts: the Health Through Warmth scheme and the Fuel Bank. Let’s look at what each charitable trust has to offer to help homeowners pay their energy bills.
Npower Health Through Warmth grant
If you suffer from a long-term illness but you don’t qualify for the ECO Affordable Warmth scheme, Npower’s Health Through Warmth grant can provide financial help. The grant can provide you with the following:
- Boiler replacement
- Boiler repairs
- Home insulation (cavity wall and loft insulation)
- Purchase of new energy-efficient appliances
Remember that as it’s run through Npower’s charitable arm, you don’t need to be a Npower customer to apply and receive this grant.
To be eligible for it you must:
- Have a long-term illness.
- Not qualify for the ECO Affordable Warmth scheme.
- Occupy a home in England or Wales.
- Have a low income.
- Have little or no savings.
- Be unfit for professional employment.
Find out if you qualify for the Health Through Warmth grant and how to apply for it.
Npower Fuel Bank
Npower has partnered up with the Trussell Trust and Durham Christian Partnership to offer the Fuel Bank scheme. If you have a prepayment meter and you get referred to a participating food bank, you can get a top-up voucher that provides your home with enough credit for approximately two weeks-worth of energy. This voucher can be redeemed at a PayPoint machine.
To be eligible you must:
- Have a prepayment meter
- Be referred to a participating food bank by a care professional (such as a GP or social worker)
Visit the Npower Fuel Bank page to find out if you qualify for the scheme and how to apply for it.
Npower’s tariffs and prices
Regardless of the tariff you choose with Npower, two main elements of your bills will always remain the same: The standing charge and the unit rate.
For a more in-depth explanation of how Npower sets out its energy bills, which will help you understand them before they arrive in your postbox, head to our article on our ‘Your Bill Explained’. Look up Npower in the list and download their pdf guide to understanding your bill. Be sure to take a look at the short clip below to demystify the terms you see in your energy bills.
What types of tariffs are available?
If it’s price certainty you’re after, Npower offers a range of fixed tariffs. But if you’d prefer the flexibility of paying the rates as they fluctuate in the wholesale energy market, then it has a standard variable tariff for you. Let’s look at each of the fixed and variable tariffs to discover the features and benefits on offer.
There is a total of four fixed tariffs offered by Npower. No need to decipher their complicated names to find out what they include. In summary, the date that comes at the end of the tariff’s name indicates when the fixed pricing will expire.
As an example, the first of the four fixed tariffs listed on Npower’s site is called “Go Green Energy Fix October 2021”. This means that your unit rate and standing charge will stay the same until 31st October 2021.
REMEMBER: Each of these four fixed tariffs is very different from one another. Each offers its own unique benefits that could match your needs and your budget. Make sure you know the difference between them in our guide to Npower’s tariffs (coming soon).
Standard Variable tariff
If you want flexibility and don’t mind having your bills go up and down in line with the fluctuating wholesale energy prices, Npower offers only one tariff. It’s called the “Standard Variable price”. Aside from the fact that you won’t have to pay any exit fee if you decide to switch to another supplier, there are a lot more benefits to be had.
Look for the standard variable tariff in Selectra´s guide to Npower’s tariffs to find out more (coming soon).
Economy 7 tariffs
With an Economy 7 tariff, your specially-adapted meter records your energy usage on two rates – a day time rate and a cheaper night rate. The biggest benefit to you is that, during a set 7 hour period at night, your electricity usage could cost you about 48% less than what you would ordinarily pay during the day. Npower has included an Economy 7 rate in each of its four main tariffs. Find out if Economy 7 is right for you.
With over 6 million households using prepayment meters, they’re still common in the UK. They’re pay-as-you-go meters, meaning that you can top up your meter with credit before you actually consume any energy.
Given many household’s preferences for a prepayment meter over a standard credit meter, Npower offers three separate prepayment tariffs. For electricity, one tariff is at a standard rate while the other tariff is at the Economy 7 rate. Npower also offers a separate prepayment gas tariff.
Remember that they’re each very different to one another, so if PAYG is your preference, take a close look at our Npower Tariffs guide (coming soon) to find out which one would suit you best.
The average business has many more variables and unknowns to deal with when compared to the average household. Energy consumption in businesses can vary depending on the business trading hours, size of staff and a host of other factors. That’s why Npower offers several business-specific tariffs for its corporate customers.
Npower’s business tariffs include fixed rate contracts, one for 12 months and another for four years. It also offers a variable rate. Find out the features and benefits of each of the three business tariffs in our guide to Npower for Businesses (coming soon).
How do Npower prices compare to the market average?
Firstly, what do we mean by the market average? We’ve used Ofgem’s price cap as a benchmark to compare tariff prices among energy suppliers. This is because most suppliers do just that. They charge up to the maximum price cap which is currently set at £1,254. This is what an average household in London could expect to pay in energy bills in a year on a dual-fuel tariff.
What would you spend with Npower? Npower’s prices on its standard tariff are actually £89.35 more expensive than the price cap. To put this into context, the average 3 bedroom flat in London paying the legal maximum could be paying £1,343.35 per year on gas and electricity bills. This would be a lot less with a cheaper supplier, i.e. one that has chosen “not” to charge up the cap, such as Tonik Energy.
In summary, Npower’s prices are expensive, and more so than most of its competitors. That’s why Npower received a measly 1/5 stars from us for its prices.
Npower: Price Score - ★
How can I contact Npower?
If you want to get in touch with Npower for a pressing question about your account, or you have issues to resolve with them, we’ve listed some of their contact information below.
1. Before you make the switch
Npower may have piqued your interest, either from their services or from what they could offer you post-merger with Eon. But before you consider switching to Npower, it’s highly recommended that you first speak with one of Selectra’s energy experts.
They’re highly trained in assessing energy suppliers and their tariffs so they’re in the best position to get the best deal possible for your home.
2. Contact Npower - current customers
Npower offers a number of different channels for getting in touch depending on what you query is about. This could include questions about making payments, contesting your bill or submitting a meter reading.
Whatever your question may be, for all the Npower contact details you may need to communicate with them, visit our full Npower contact page (coming soon).
Note that if your query is about logging into your Npower account, you’ll want to go through our guide to Npower login (coming soon) to resolve your issue quickly and easily.
Npower reviews and verdict
With a very long history as detailed in Npower’s timeline above, it’s clear that it was once heralded as a seasoned supplier worthy of joining the ranks of the Big Six powerhouse of energy suppliers. But public perception of the supplier is now quite the opposite.
Criticism for its poor service has plagued Npower to the brink of destruction. So what have its customers beensaying about this once great company? We’ve done some digging.
It turns out that customers have rated Npower poorly across all categories. Therefore we can not identify where they’re performing best and where they’re at their weakest. They’re uniformly rated negatively across all fronts, from customer service to value for money.
In our Npower reviews guide (coming soon), you’ll see how they were rated in each category by Which? and Selectra. What’s more, we’ll give you a flavour of the comments left by customers to see how they reflect the ratings they published.
All things considered, we give Npower a rating of 2/5 stars. This score is based on price, customer reviews, fuel mix and extra features that enhance the customer’s experience, or lack thereof.
We know that Npower has taken a nosedive, with customers leaving at higher rates than ever before. Its German parent company RWE has been transparent about the financial losses this has sparked and the much-needed asset swap which will take place with Eon.
Here’s our summary of what Npower has going for it:
|Large range of tariffs||High tariff prices|
|Attractive perks for business customers||Poor customer service|
|Easy to use app||Bill inaccuracy|
If you’re not a Npower customer, we’d recommend not rushing into anything just yet. Call an energy expert to find out if its merger will change anything or whether you’ll be better off with a completely different supplier, one that’s not owned by RWE!
Npower: Selectra's verdict - ★★