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UK Energy Providers: Your Complete Guide
With more than 50 domestic energy providers in the UK, there are plenty of options to choose from. However, with so many providers, it can also be difficult to decide which is the best one for your home. In this guide, we analyse the different gas and electric suppliers in the UK so that you can make an informed decision about which one to switch to.
Energy Providers: A Brief History
According to the latest report from energy regulator Ofgem, there are 55 domestic energy providers in Great Britain as of the third quarter of 2020. These gas and electric suppliers can be broken down into the following categories:
- Dual-fuel energy providers (both gas and electricity) — 48 companies
- Electricity-only providers — two companies
- Gas-only providers — five companies
Let’s have a brief look at how these gas and electric suppliers came to be.
The electricity sector was privatised in Great Britain in the early 1990s.The aim was to promote competition among companies and protect consumers’ interests. By 2005, just six electricity providers (known as the Big Six) supplied 99% of households.
This hold of 99% of the electricity market lasted until 2014 when smaller energy companies first started to come to the fore. In the years that followed, these smaller companies have continued to enter the market. One provider, OVO Energy, even acquired one of the original Big Six providers in January 2020.
For the third quarter of 2020, energy regulator Ofgem reported the electricity market shares as follows:
Note that Npower has since been absorbed by the Eon Group. All Npower customers will be transferred to Eon Next (a subsidiary of Eon) over the coming months. This acquisition makes Eon the second-largest electricity supplier in Great Britain, just behind British Gas.
National gas supplier British Gas was created in 1972. It was then privatised in 1986 under Margaret Thatcher. The 'Tell Sid' campaign encouraged individuals to buy shares in the company. With an IPO of 135p per share, British Gas was valued at £9 billion. At the time, this was the highest equity offering ever.
The same Big Six energy companies emerged to dominate the gas market in the UK. As with the electricity market, these gas companies supplied 99% of the gas market share until 2014. As of the third quarter of 2020, there are 53 gas providers in Great Britain. We display their market shares in the chart below.
Who are the Big Six energy providers?
The term ‘Big Six’ is used to describe Britain’s six largest energy companies. Traditionally, the Big Six energy providers consisted of the following companies:
- British Gas
- Scottish Power
These Big Six energy providers dominated the energy market until the end of 2019. In 2005, they held a combined market share across both the gas and electricity markets of 100%. In the third quarter of 2019, they had a combined electricity market share of 70% and a combined gas market share of 69% in Great Britain.
At the end of 2019, Npower was acquired by fellow Big Six provider Eon. In January 2020, SSE was acquired by OVO Energy.
There are now seven major players in the GB energy market. These companies all have more than 5% of both the electricity and gas market shares. In descending order, the following energy providers are currently Britain’s largest suppliers.
Who are the cheapest energy suppliers?
In the following table, we’ve listed the suppliers with the cheapest tariffs. Calculations are based on a medium-sized home in London with average consumption levels, which is 2,900 kWh of electricity and 12,000 kWh of gas. All of these tariffs have a direct debit payment method.
|Provider||Cheapest tariff||Estimated annual spend||Exit fee|
|PFP Energy||Green Variable s2 Paperless||£842.31||None|
|Orbit Energy||Spring Vari-Save Extra||£854.05||None|
|Neo Energy||NEO 4.1||£856.40||None|
|Outfox the Market||Spring 21 Variable||£900.48||None|
|GOTO Energy||Standard Variable||£924.58||None|
|People's Energy||Fixed Super Tariff||£937.00||£30 per fuel|
|Avro Energy||Simple and Saver 12M||£944.38||None|
|Utility Point||Just Up 21||£955.22||£36 per fuel|
*Figures are for illustrative purposes only. Calculations based on a three-bedroom house in London with average energy consumption. Figures last updated May 2021.
Which are the best-rated energy providers?
While price is often the most important factor people examine when choosing an energy provider, it’s also a good idea to consider the quality of the company’s customer service.
Citizens Advice compares UK energy providers in terms of customer service on a quarterly basis. The organisation rates suppliers across the following categories:
- Average call-wait time
- Number of complaints per 10,000 customers
- Customers that received an accurate bill during the past year
- Bills and statements issued on time
- Switches completed within 21 days
- Customer guarantees
You can find the best-rated energy companies accoring to the latest survey in the following table.
|3||Outfox the Market||4.4|
Information from Citizen's Advice Last Updated May 2021
Renewable Electricity Providers
Each year, all energy companies are required to disclose the different fuels from which they source electricity.
Being with a renewable energy supplier does not mean that the actual electricity you consume is 100% renewable. All of the electricity that is generated is put into the same grid before being distributed to individual homes.
According to Ofgems latest fuel mix report (which covers April 2019 through March 2020), the suppliers listed in the following table provide 100% renewable electricity.
|Bristol Energy||Good Energy||London Energy|
|Bulb||Goto Energy||Octopus Energy|
|Co-operative Energy||Green||Outfox the Market|
|Economy 7 Energy||Green Energy UK||Pure Planet|
|Ecotricity||M&S Energy||Shell Energy|
|Foxglove Energy||Hub Energy||So Energy|
Note that Eon (which has acquired Npower) and OVO Energy (which supplies SSE) claim they now provide 100% renewable electricity. The fuel mix information for this most recent period (1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021) must be disclosed by 1 October.
Prepayment Energy Providers
There are just over four million households with prepayment meters in Great Britain. This represents about 15% of all households.
When choosing an energy provider, prepayment customers don’t have as many options as customers with credit meters. This is because even though all gas and electric suppliers must provide pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tariffs to current customers with financial difficulties, only providers with more than 50,000 customers are required to offer prepayment plans to new customers.
The following electricity and gas companies offer PAYG tariffs for new customers:
- EDF Energy
- British Gas
- Scottish Power
- Orbit Energy
- London Power
- Shell Energy
- People’s Energy Company
- E Gas and Electricity
Business Energy Providers
In addition to domestic energy, there are also several providers that supply business energy. Unlike domestic providers, business energy providers don’t always publish their rates online. You will often need to contact the supplier to get a personalised business quote.
For more information on the most popular business energy providers, head to their relative guide:
- BES Utilities
- British Gas Business
- British Gas Lite
- Corona Energy
- Gazprom Energy
- Opus Energy
- Pozitive Energy
- Total Gas and Power
- Valda Energy
- Yu Energy
Who is my current energy supplier?
Your energy supplier is the company you pay either your power or gas bill to. You can find out who your energy provider is in the following ways:
- Take a look at your energy bill — You’ve likely received bills (or a welcome pack for prepayment customers) from your energy provider. It’s name should be on the documents.
- Check your email — If you signed up for paperless billing, your provider will send you all your information via email. Try searching for “energy” in your inbox to find an email from your provider.
- Contact your DNO — Your Distribution Network Operator (DNO) varies depending on where you live. Head to our DNO guide to find out who yours is.
- Check your bank statements — Whether its online or paper statements, your energy providers name should appear on your bank statements.
If you’re still having troubling, head to our dedicated guide on finding your energy supplier.
How do I choose a gas and electricity supplier?
When choosing an energy provider for your home, there are a few different factors we recommend you consider. While some of these factors may seem obvious, others (that are just as important) can easily be overlooked.
- Cost — Is it a good deal? To compare quotes, it’s best to use your own consumption levels. Not sure how much energy you use? Try using our consumption calculator.
- Customer service — Can you count on the energy company to provide high-quality customer support?
- Energy sources — Are you interested in doing your part to help save the planet? Choose an energy provider that supplies 100% renewable energy.
- Exit fees — Will you be charged a fee for terminating your contract early? You may want to find an energy tariff without any exit fees if you’re only planning to stay at the property for a limited time.
Before starting to compare plans, we recommend you establish your priorities so that you can find the best energy provider to suit your needs.