At OVO, we provide the gas used in our customers’ homes, but we don’t own the networks of pipelines needed to carry the gas to each individual property.
Gas arrives in the UK from offshore fields in the North Sea and Irish Sea, or by pipeline from Ireland, Belgium and Holland. A small amount is produced in mainland UK.
The gas is collected in reception terminals, where it’s checked for quality and then injected into the national transmission system. Compressor stations keep it flowing freely. When it leaves the transmission system, it’s ready to be delivered to customers, usually by one of the eight UK Gas Distribution Networks (GDNs).
However, there are many areas that the GDNs don’t reach. They may be places where homes were originally designed to be heated by a different fuel, or rural neighbourhoods that have never been on the national gas main.
In those places, gas may be delivered by an Independent Gas Transporter (IGT). IGTs extend the national gas network to around 1 million homes that otherwise wouldn’t be able to access the UK’s favourite source of home energy.
As well as operating these individual local networks, IGTs work in partnership with developers to create the gas pipe infrastructure in new estates and lay gas pipelines to the properties. Once the estate is built and occupied, the IGT will be responsible for transporting the gas to all the homes, even though it might be supplied by a different energy company at each address. The IGT will also be responsible for maintaining the pipes.
If you want to know if your home is served by an IGT, just check the beginning of your gas meter number. If it starts with 74, 75, 76 or 77, your gas is delivered by an IGT. If it starts with any other number, you’re on the National Grid or with one of the other Gas Distribution Networks.
You may also see the letters IGT on your gas or dual fuel bill.
If you’re in an IGT area, you can still switch energy providers very quickly and easily, particularly if you do it online.
However, if you switch to OVO, it will be about 12 weeks before you receive your first OVO Energy statement. It will show all the gas you’ve used during that time, so it will be around 3 times the size of a normal monthly gas bill.
That doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay it all at once. In fact, you’ll already have been paying for your energy as agreed in your OVO contract, so you won’t fall into arrears. However, you won’t be able to see any details of how much energy you’re using in the meantime.
Once you’ve had your first statement, you’ll get your bills monthly or quarterly – whichever you chose when you joined us.
The first statement takes so long to arrive because IGTs aren’t part of the National Grid, so information isn’t transferred in the same way, and it can take our gas shipper a while to collate the data we need. So we can’t start billing you until we’ve received confirmation that:
This lack of information can also mean that if the switch is delayed – because your old supplier has objected, for example – it may be a while before we find out.
The same timescale applies if you decide to leave OVO. Even if you’re completely up to date with your payments on the date you switch, we won’t be able to give you a closing statement for around 12 weeks. Once we’ve produced it, we may need to charge you a little extra or give you a refund.
There’s nothing we at OVO can do to speed these processes up. IGTs are relatively small companies and they don’t usually have the resources to move as quickly as the bigger networks.
The gas delivered by an Independent Gas Transporter is just the same type and quality as gas delivered by the main Gas Distribution Networks, but it may cost a little more. IGTs deliver to fewer customers, so they can’t afford to cut prices in the way the big GDNs can.
Ofgem uses a ‘Relative Price Control’ to regulate the amounts that IGTs can charge when they start supplying a new site. This ensures that their prices are capped at a level that broadly matches the amount charged by the GDNs.