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Which are the Best and Cheapest Energy Suppliers in the UK?

UK energy suppliers

There are currently 62 energy suppliers operating in Great Britain catering to residential customers across the country, but which one do you choose? For years, the biggest energy suppliers in the land were the unchallenged masters of the energy markets, but that’s all starting to change. Smaller, independent companies are now starting to claw back their share of the market with their cheaper and overall, better tariffs, often with improved customer service. Let’s find out a little bit about the current situation!


The Big Six

The ‘Big Six’ refers to the six gas and electricity companies that currently hold around 74% market share in the UK. For years, they were unchallenged and happy to reign in their ‘oligopoly’. These companies are as follows:

Despite their largely uncontested reign for over 20 years, the stranglehold the Big Six have on the market is starting to crumble. Smaller, independent suppliers are beginning to take back control.

The issue with the Big Six over the years has been that their prices have been able to inflate massively without any great fluctuation in their customer base. As more people become aware of their right to switch, however, they are taking a bigger hit. Independents are getting a reputation for being simpler, quicker, cheaper and in general, better, which is causing huge problems for the bigger companies.

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Independent suppliers

Now, we’ve seen the big suppliers, but who are these upstarts shaking things up? As mentioned above, there are 62 suppliers currently operating in the British residential energy markets, so apart from the big six companies above, the other 56 would come under this category right here.

A smaller, or independent supplier, in this sense, is one that is not owned by a huge backing of shareholders or, ultimately, who is not as big as the Big Six suppliers mentioned above. To name a few of the largest, here is a list of some of the independents currently operating in Great Britain:

Energy suppliers such as the abovementioned have put a huge emphasis, in general, on renewable energy and as they are not responsible for generation in the majority of cases, they are able to offer this supply at a much cheaper price. See below a trend graph of how independent companies have taken back market share:

It would be possible for the Big Six to offer this level of pricing on their own tariffs, but as they primarily focus on profit margins and generation profitability, they have maintained their highly inflated prices.


So which should you choose?

You’ve heard their names, but who is the best and who is the cheapest? Well, there’s no real answer for that that would stand the course of more than a month or so as prices and satisfaction levels rise and fall constantly. But, at present, we believe that the best deal comes through Tonik Energy. Given their rock bottom prices and sky high customer service levels, we believe that they offer the best possible tariffs at present.

Tonik Energy are an independent British-owned energy supplier that operate from Birmingham. All of their tariffs come with 100% renewable electricity and some even with renewable gas. One of the best attributes is also their top level customer service that has received 5 star reviews across all platforms.

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What to look out for

When you make a comparison of available tariffs, it’s sometimes tempting to just go straight for the first, cheapest tariff you see. It may well be the one you go for in the end, but there are a few things that you should perhaps bear in mind first. Of course, if you switch with Selectra we’ll make sure you’re well aware of these things, but if you go elsewhere, be careful!

Customer service

We’ve all been in the situation - you’re stuck on hold with a terrible outsourced customer service hotline, tearing your hair out hoping to the high heavens that your issue be resolved. Make sure that you don’t get yourself into another one of the situations by choosing a company that has high customer service ratings.

It just so happens that the most popular suppliers in the country have some of the worst satisfaction ratings. Perhaps have a change and go with a smaller supplier that impresses with its customer service levels. Below you can find a list of pages where you will find customer service telephone numbers.

Contract type

The two main contract types for dual fuel are fixed and variable. This refers to your unit rate, the amount you pay per unit of gas or electricity. If you opt for a variable tariff, your unit rate has the potential to rise or fall with wholesale prices and general market conditions, but if you have a fixed tariff, your unit rate will be locked in for your contract length (usually 1 or 2 years).

We recommend that you go for the fixed option. They are generally cheaper and variable tariffs almost always rise in price.

Exit Fees

If you do opt for a fixed tariff and you think they may be the possibility of cancelling before your contract runs out, you should look into the exit fees. These are usually per fuel and will be incurred if you want to cancel your contract before the agreed date.

A standard exit fee will be in the region of £30 per fuel, but vary depending on supplier and tariff. Most suppliers do have them, but some, like EDF Energy, don’t attach exit fees to any of their tariffs.

Renewable energy

If you would like to do your bit for the environment, you can usually opt for a renewable tariff for no extra cost. Most independent suppliers offer 100% renewable tariffs and a couple of the big six do, also. Having your energy delivered through renewable methods is a great way to support the move towards green energy generation.

Although you will not receive it to your home physically due to the common distribution infrastructure, your usage amount will be directly removed from fossil fuel demand. The more people that opt for renewable tariffs, the better our energy mix will become as a whole.


Full list of GB suppliers


How to Choose your New Supplier

Exit fees, dual fuel, variable pricing... to most people, trying to choose a new energy supplier is a confusing process full of unfamiliar jargon. It can make choosing a new supplier out of a list of unknown companies an intimidating and stressful process, even if Martin Lewis makes it look easy. But don’t worry, we’re breaking down the whole procedure to make switching fast, simple and stress-free.


When can I switch my supplier without a penalty?


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Want to switch your gas or electricity tariff but worried about having to pay an exit fee? We’ve got all the info you need to make sure that - fee or no fee - you’re getting the best deal possible.

First of all, you should make sure you’re current tariff even has an exit fee. Many variable tariffs don’t, so if you’re currently paying into a variable tariff (which we at Selectra don’t recommend) you should be able to switch fee-free.

As a rule, fixed-price tariffs do have an exit fee, but if you switch towards the end of your contract (within the last 49 days) your supplier can’t charge you a fee for switching.

If you are facing an exit fee, that shouldn’t stop you from switching. Most exit fees range from £5 to £30 per fuel (which would be £60 for electricity and gas). This pales in comparison to the hundreds of pounds of potential savings that can be gained by switching to a cheaper provider.


Choosing a Fixed or variable tariff

Whether or not you’re worried about an exit fee, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll opt for a fixed rate or variable tariff.

Not sure about the difference? With a variable tariff, the price of your gas and electricity will change over time in response to various market factors, primarily the market wholesale costs. While a fixed tariff holds a fixed price of energy for a set amount of time.

It’s important to remember that a fixed rate means that the price of energy per kilowatt hour is a fixed price, not that you will pay a fixed amount. Your bill will still depend on the amount of energy you use per month, standing charges, govt levies and more.

Here at Selectra, we recommend to all households that they contract a fixed price tariff. While the initial rate of a variable tariff may be lower than fixed offerings, this is unlikely to continue. The UK energy market is facing several turbulent factors going forward, including the effect of Brexit on the industry.


You can find more information on fixed vs. variable tariffs via the link below.

Understanding your electricity tariff

Dual fuel tariffs

Most homes have both electricity and gas connections, and receive both fuels from energy suppliers. Unless you live in an electricity-only household, you have the option of either contracting your gas and electricity separately or bundling them together with a dual fuel tariff.

About 15% of UK households are not connected to the national gas grid. These gasless households have different requirements when it comes to cooking and heating.


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What are the benefits of a dual fuel tariff? Principally, to make your life simpler. By choosing one company to supply both your electricity and gas, you’ll receive just one bill and have one point of contact for all potential energy issues.

Many companies also offer a dual fuel discount to their customers, meaning that customers who contract both their gas and electricity with them will pay less than customers who contract their energy separately. Some suppliers' dual fuel tariffs have only one standing charge that covers both electricity and gas for dual fuel customers.


Say goodbye to the Big Six

If you have heard of any energy provider in the UK, it was probably one of the Big Six companies. As the name suggests, they are (by far) the six biggest electricity and gas suppliers in the UK. They currently hold about 75% of the UK market.

If that number sounds impressive, be aware that as recently as 2009 they held a full 100% market share. Since then, their customers have left in droves, leaving the Big Six companies scrambling to adapt to the arrival of new, independent energy suppliers.

In the near future, the Big Six may become the Big Five, as npower will be absorbed by Eon. For several years, npower has suffered customer losses and poor financial results, and the current unification comes after a scrapped merger with SSE.


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As of now, none of the Big Six members have been able to compete with smaller suppliers in terms of price or customer service. Big Six companies are generally more expensive and, with the exception of SSE, are known for terrible customer service.

While you may be drawn to the more familiar name of companies like British Gas, it is a much better idea to seek out more information about unknown providers, which are almost certainly able to provide better service along with lower prices.


Energy tariffs: finding the best price

Undoubtedly, the most important part of choosing your provider is finding the best price possible. But with a large number of suppliers, prices differing across regions and different types of payments and government schemes, that’s easier said than done.

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Switch the easy way.

Find the best price for your home’s energy in minutes!

Unless you’re an eagle-eyed energy expert with plenty of time to devote to researching energy tariffs, if you’re looking for the lowest price possible, the best thing to do is to call our energy experts.


How long does it take to switch?


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If you’re worried about how long it will take to switch, don’t! The entire process is quick and simple.

First off, you’ll want to do a bit of research into different energy providers, as well as the energy market in your area. If that sounds intimidating, relax, we’ve got tons of energy guides to help you on every detail. Give yourself between an hour and a couple of days to look into details, depending on how much background information you prefer to have.

Short on time? Our energy experts can help you find the best tariff for your home or business in just a few minutes. And you can use our comparison tool to quickly see everything the market has to offer.

How long will it take to begin service with your new provider after you’ve made the switch? It should take about 21 days. That includes a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period where you can cancel your new contract before it begins.

All in all, the entire process should only take between 20 days and a month, and only takes a few minutes on the phone to get the ball rolling.


Will my energy supply be interrupted?

If you’re preoccupied with thoughts that a switch will cause your electricity or gas supply to be interrupted, you can relax. Your energy supply is guaranteed, regardless of which energy company provides your gas and electricity.

In fact, the only change you’ll notice is that your energy bills will come from a new supplier, and if you switch with Selectra, you can be sure that the cost will go down as well.


How to avoid double billing

Most people considering switching energy providers are nervous about one thing: Having to spend a month or more paying two separate energy providers. So how can you avoid this happening? The easiest way possible: do nothing!


a pile of coins flying towards a document with a flame symbol

The idea of being double charged is actually a myth. Once you make the switch, the change-over date where you will be billed by your new supplier is agreed on by both energy companies. That means you won’t be charged by two companies for the same energy usage.

A few independent suppliers and advance pay tariffs will charge you before the start date on your contract, but those bills will be discounted to avoid overpaying.

If you do think you’ve been charged by two companies for the same energy, you should contact the Energy Ombudsman.


Factoring in the fuel mix

First off, what is a fuel mix? It’s the specific mix and percentage of fuel sources for an energy provider. Normally the fuel mix consists of a certain percentage of renewable (or green) energy, natural gas, coal, peat and nuclear power. For example, a provider that provides 100% wind power, such as npower, would have a fuel mix of 100% renewable energy.

Although there are several low cost energy suppliers who supply 100% renewable energy, the national average is still far from 100% green. As you can see in the graph below, the average fuel mix is made up of 41.2% natural gas, 7.6% coal and 20% nuclear power, all of which are non-renewable energy sources.

Luckily for the environment and those of us living in it, AKA everyone, the cost of producing electricity from renewable sources has lowered over time; they’re now on par with the cost of producing electricity from natural gas and other non-renewable sources. This has caused more and more electricity suppliers to provide 100% renewably sourced tariffs.

If the environment is something you care about, be sure to take a look at your potential supplier’s fuel mix. Even if you’re not willing to pay a premium, odds are you can get a low price alongside a green fuel mix.


Collective energy switch - what is it?


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You may have heard of a collective energy switch, but may be unaware of exactly what it is. The basic idea is for a group of energy customers to come together as a group and bargain with energy suppliers collectively to get a special deal for a better contract.

Not just any group of people can do this however, you should only join a collective switch with a trusted intermediary, like a local council or a reputable website like Money Saving Expert. You must be a member of the organisation or site, but that can be as simple as subscribing to an email newsletter.

Why do these intermediary organisations take time to negotiate a better deal? For money, of course! Money Saving Expert for example, is paid £60 per customer, and every customer gets £30 of that amount!

The process of the switch takes about three weeks, but it may take longer to receive the cashback money, around three months.


What if I have a prepayment meter?

If your home has a prepayment gas or electricity meter, you unfortunately will have less options when it comes to finding a new gas and electricity supplier and may be looking at higher prices. This is especially egregious as many prepayment homes are at higher risk for being in fuel poverty.

Some providers, like Toto Energy, have historically had more competitive prices. Still, as tariff rates change over time, the easiest way to be sure you’re not paying too much on your prepayment tariff is by simply giving us a call.


Energy switch cashback and other rewards


a pile of coins next to a piggy bank

Looking for a cashback reward? Several energy suppliers offer a cash incentive, just for switching to their tariffs!

While some suppliers consistently have a reward program for switches, others offer rewards for a limited time basis.

How much can you earn with an energy switch cashback? Most suppliers or intermediaries offer between £20 and £30 for switching to a dual fuel tariff. They generally offer between £10 and £15 for a single fuel tariff.

While a few extra notes in your wallet is certainly nice, it’s important to not base your decision solely on cashback rewards, as you may end up paying more in the long run with steeper tariffs!

In a different but related scheme, some energy providers offer a referral bonus to their customers. That means that existing customers can earn money by recommending their supplier to friends, family and other acquaintances who ultimately end up switching.


Conclusion

Trying to choose your energy provider from a list of companies you’ve never heard of can seem intimidating. However, switching can save you hundreds of pounds throughout the year and doesn’t have to be a trial.

The important thing is to take the time to do the research, or talk to an expert you can trust. Our energy consultants can help you cut through the nonsense and promotional hype to make sure you get the best tariff possible for your home.