A new energy supplier switching process has been launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) which halves previous times and brings 24-hour switching with smart meters a step closer.

In what Decc terms a ‘January energy detox’, energy companies will now halve the time they take when consumers want to switch supplier.

Switching energy supplier could save many people around £300 – and some could save more – off their bills, and it’s now quicker to do than ever before.

Energy companies have cut the time it takes to switch between suppliers to 17 days, down from five weeks last year. Together with savings of around £300 for many – or more for a first-time switcher – and new competitive tariffs on the market at under £1,000 a year, now’s the time to shop around for a good deal.

In October 2013, energy secretary Ed Davey challenged industry to cut switching times dramatically. Energy regulator Ofgem worked with suppliers to bring about the new processes to enable households to switch in half the previous time, and so benefit from increased competition and trimmer bills this New Year.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of industry body Energy UK, said: "This is fantastic news and yet another example of energy companies making it easier for customers to engage with their supplier.”

Smaller independent suppliers are also on track to introduce faster switching in 2015. The new changes mean that suppliers don’t have to wait for the 14-day cooling-off period before they begin the switching process. Instead the process begins on day one when a customer decides to switch, while statutory rights are protected so switchers can still cancel at any time within those 14 days.

The new process is one step closer towards Ed Davey’s vision for 24-hour switching with the roll-out of smart metering. Altogether, the programme is set to bring a net benefit of £6.2bn to the UK economy through energy savings and by cutting back on delivery costs, such as the need for home meter readings.