The energy companies have been in the news in the past week, as some of them have lowered their gas prices – you know you have an energy problem when a gas company lowering its prices makes the national news. There has been much in the media about where to look for the best energy tariffs, and which companies are offering the best deal. Almost all of these articles only really mention the six biggest companies.
These ‘big six’ are British Gas, Npower, Scottish Power, SSE, the French supplier EDF and Germany’s EON. Between them they control 99% of the UK’s energy market, but you can pretty much rule them out entirely in choosing a supplier. In surveys of customer service, value for money and billing accuracy, none of them make the top five. They all offer a green energy tariff of some sort, but none of them delivers more than 10% renewable energy in their fuel mix. The only thing in their favour is that their size delivers economies of scale and makes them sometimes cheaper, although even that isn’t always the case.
I would argue that energy is far too important to make a decision purely on the basis of price anyway. So ignore the big six and their fancy billboards, and use your energy bill to shape Britain’s energy future.
I’m not equipped to properly compare every energy supplier on the market, but here are my own recommendations:
For Ecotricity it’s all about building renewable energy, which should make up around 60% of their mix by the end of next year. Although you’re not getting 100% renewable energy, the money you pay through your bills goes directly towards installing new wind turbines, hydro power plants and solar farms, with no shareholders needing their cut of profits. This year Ecotricity also diversified into green gas, using anaerobic digestion. If you want your bill to help transform energy in the UK, this is the company to go for.
The only company in Britain offering 100% renewable electricity on all tariffs , Good Energy uses no nuclear, gas or coal. All their energy comes from independent producers around the country, often small-scale, local suppliers, rather than building their own power sources. If you’re looking to knock your emissions down to size and support smaller producers, Good Energy is the supplier for you.
Britain’s only not-for-profit energy company, Ebico cuts out the middle man to offer the lowest prices it can. It was set up specifically to tackle fuel poverty and work to provide fairer energy prices. Its focus on social justice is, according to the website, “motivated by and based on the Christian gospel” – an intriguing prospect from an energy company. If social justice is your first priority, switch to Ebico.
In Which’s annual survey, those three come 3rd, 1st and 5th respectively, so you’d be getting great service as well as pursuing environmental and social goals through your energy bills. Beside those three alternatives, here are two smaller companies you could also consider:
A family run business that starting selling power in 2009 off the back of a hydropower company. LoCo2 Energy offers packages at 20%, 40% or 100% renewable energy and aims to price-match the bigger companies.
Like the rest of the Coop network, Cooperative Energy is owned by its members. It aims for a fuel mix with half the carbon emissions of the national average. If you’re a Co-op member, you’d get a share of the profits and it might be worth switching to this one.
Personally, I’ve chosen Ecotricity, as I want to support investment in renewable energy. Go for whatever is right for you, but if you are thinking of switching to Ecotricity, use the the referral code RAF-QH3ZL and you and I will both get a £50 voucher for Ecotopia.