In 2020, both the gas and electricity markets will have been open to competition for three decades. The UK was the first country in Europe to move to a deregulated energy sector, and as a result, we have been able to save money on our energy bills for almost three decades. In order to keep saving money on our gas and electricity bills, we are encouraged to shop around and compare energy suppliers. The issue is that many people are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice that we have on the market: who are we meant to choose?
What Are Your Energy Options?
In the United Kingdom we have what you would call an ‘oligopoly’, a market dominated by six companies. These companies are collectively called the Big Six and are named as such because they, by far, have the most customers, profits and overall business throughout the UK market.
These companies are EDF Energy, British Gas, Npower, Eon, Scottish Power and SSE and they currently hold a collective market share of around 81%. This is changing quite drastically, however, as the independent energy suppliers outside of this grouping have begun to rise to popularity, as more people switch.
In early 2011, the Big Six had a near 100% complete domination; however, due to the progress of such companies as First Utility, Tonik Energy, Ovo Energy, Co-operative Energy, who have managed to claw back almost a 20% portion of the market share, the landscape of the UK energy market has changed considerably. This is improving what’s on offer for consumers in a number of ways, including:
- Now that more competition exists and people aren’t as afraid to move to independent suppliers, the Big Six are having to be much more competitive with tariff prices.
- The smaller and leaner structure of the independent energy suppliers has meant that much of the customer service has been considerably higher than that of the Big Six, meaning the larger companies are having to put in a much bigger push towards customer satisfaction in order to compete.
- Big Six companies can no longer assume that they will always have an unquestioning consumer base, meaning they are having to reinvent their previously untouchable corporate image as their market share is challenged.
Compared to single fuel tariffs (either electricity or gas), dual fuel tariffs bundle both kinds of energy and provide the added convenience of letting households have a clear overview of both their electricity and gas usage on a single bill. This makes it easier to see if you are getting optimal value for money. It is also worth noting that with dual fuel tariffs, you have a single supplier and therefore a unified point of contact for any issues or queries you may have.
If you’d like to learn more about energy suppliers in Great Britain, click the link below.
Green & Renewable Electricity
As UK energy needs continue to increase, providers sourcing electricity and gas from renewable or non-renewable producers has become a hot topic. Generating energy in a way that allows us to reduce our fossil fuel and nuclear power consumption does not only make sense for the environment but also for our wallets. This is because of energy sources like natural gas and coal will eventually run out and the cost of generating electricity from those sources can only go up.
Meanwhile, renewable producers can rely on a limitless supply of solar, wind, hydropower and biomethane energy. That unavoidable fact coupled with increasing investment in renewable infrastructure will contribute to lower prices and ultimately keeping them in check in the long run. Electricity suppliers who are committed to a sustainable supply will be well placed to reap the benefits.
In the UK, companies such as Tonik Energy and Ecotricity source 100% of their electricity and up to 10% of their gas from renewable sources, according to the chosen tariff. For the environmentally-conscious consumer, they also offer the option of going carbon neutral by offsetting the remaining fossil fuel originating gas through investments in carbon emission reductions elsewhere in the energy generation sector.
Domestic gas from renewable sources is currently extremely hard to come across in the UK; however, the infrastructure does exist. In various countries such as the United States and Canada, methods such as Biomethane are being used to create a more stable and environmentally friendly gas generation mix.
Independent British energy supplier Ecotricity were the first supplier to offer a part green gas tariff in Great Britain. As it stands, their current gas supply is 5% renewable, which is made from a process using grass. More recently, companies such as Tonik Energy have managed to increase their supply of renewable gas to 10%. Although it may not sound like much of a percentage, a start has been made that will hopefully allow us to progress within the future.
Renewable gas will undoubtedly contribute to keeping costs in check as North Sea reserves decline and the UK has to turn increasingly towards more expensive imported gas from countries like Russia. This means energy prices and availability will be increasingly dependent on the whims of the global political climate. It’s worth noting that renewable gas is much harder to source than renewable electricity, meaning having this as a starting point is an extremely promising step toward energy independence, especially considering the UK fracking industry is still in its infancy.
Economy 7 tariffs give you access to significantly cheaper night rates with the trade-off being day rates that are above average. It is worth noting from the outset that Economy 7 is only available for your electricity, yet can be used in a dual fuel tariff. Economy 7 is a differential tariff, which means that you will have two separate meters one that measures your electricity usage using two different tariff settings and the other one for your gas.
These two tariff settings are usually night and day, the night part being 7 hours, hence the name. This kind of tariff can be extremely beneficial to those people who do not mind using their high output appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines during the night. If you don’t already have an economy 7 meter fitted you will have to give your energy supplier a call to fit your home with a new meter. You can find out more about this type of billing, including metering changes and scheduling tips to get the best savings, by clicking the link below.
Before rushing into the cheapest tariff on the market, you should bear in mind that should you have problem, such as a billing error or a query, the customer service quality of your chosen company is going to be vital. As such, you should definitely take into account the customer service ratings of each company before making any kind of decision. You should note, however, that due to the sheer customer numbers and corporate structure of the Big Six you will find that ratings will generally be quite a bit lower than the independents.
This should not put you off choosing a Big Six company but it may be worth rating them against each other to get a true feel of their abilities and customer satisfaction. The most popular supplier in the UK, for example, is British Gas, with a customer service rating of 4.6/10 on Trustpilot, whereas Scottish Power only scored 0.3/10, on the other end of the spectrum independent companies like Utility Warehouse, Ovo Energy and Tonik Energy are currently scoring well above 7/10 with well over half, and in some cases three quarters, of their users reviewing them awarding them 5 stars. It’s hard to argue with those numbers.
Our Recommended Supplier
We all have good and bad experiences with, not just energy suppliers, but with all types of utilities and products. As such, it is pretty hard to find a company that meets everyone's needs. What we have to do is go with companies that have positive reviews and consistently cheap prices.
For us, this is undoubtedly, Tonik Energy. This Birmingham-based company is focused on keeping tariffs competitive, employing renewable energy as well as helping you lower your energy bills and usage. Tonik Energy isn't turning to renewable energy just for environmental reasons, it's a crucial part of their capacity to maintain low prices and respond quickly to varying energy demands now and in the future. Additionally, they do not require a minimum term of service and if you decide you want to try a different supplier there is no exit fee which is something that not every energy company offers.
Tonik Energy Customer Service Ratings
They are also one of the few companies who are being proactive about giving consumers further choice as to how their electricity is generated and stored. This could potentially result in a savings windfall for any of their 50,000 members who take advantage of the upcoming Tonik Battery programme. These households would stock up on cheap electricity at night and use it during peak times. Some residential consumers may choose to go even further and invest in solar panels for their home, which means they could potentially ditch the national grid altogether.
Surprisingly, Tonik Energy is encouraging its members to consider switching to solar panels because in the long run it will help them reach their goal of halving energy bills over the next five years.
To get a quick and simple comparison between Tonik Energy tariffs and the rest of the market, so you can decide if they are right for you, give Selectra a call on 01704 325069. If you’d like to get a better idea about what you’re likely to pay before you give us a ring, click here to see averages in each area of the UK.
Find the best energy tariff for your needs To get a quick and easy gas, electricity or dual fuel comparison with Selectra give us a call on 01704 325069 and we'll help you switch to the best energy company for you.