Archives for posts with tag: Energy industry

The Big Six energy companies are ripping us off and making billions in profits. It’s time to fight back, says Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth

 A lightning bolt of anger has shot through the British public over the last few days – and it’s not because of some kind of freak weather event. Families up and down the land are up in arms over soaring energy bills – now averaging an eye-watering £1300 a year – and the Government’s recent energy summit, where the Prime Minister summoned the Big Six energy companies with barely a slap on the wrist for hiking prices, will do nothing to sooth them.

The public is angry with good reason: the Big Six energy companies – household names like British Gas, EDF and E.ON – are ripping us all off and making billions in profit. It’s an issue that truly affects us all, as they supply 99 per cent of households in the UK. So when they hike prices – to the tune of an average 12 per cent this year alone – there’s barely a soul in the land who isn’t affected. With profits soaring at the same time, and bosses picking up pay packets of over £1 million a year, it’s enough to send a shock of rage through any system.

It’s a nightmare scenario – and one, without the Government acting, shows no signs of ending any time soon. Our energy bills are rocketing because our energy system is broken– it’s as simple as that. The Big Six energy companies are keeping us hooked on expensive imported gas, and it suits them pretty nicely to keep it that way – after all, any increases in the price they can just pass onto their customers: us.

Recent Friends of the Earth research shows that every household in the UK faces extra costs of £300 a year by 2020 if the big energy companies invest in a new fleet of gas and coal-fired power stations and ditch plans to help us save energy and harness power from the wind, waves and sun. Yet this is exactly the route that will bring a better deal for consumers in the long-run.

Enough is enough. The Government needs to act to tackle the Big Six energy companies. That’s why Friends of the Earth has launched its Final Demand campaign for energy we can all afford. We need a public inquiry into the Big Six’s power and urgent action to stop the Government killing off our clean British energy providers. The time for talking shops is over. Come on, Prime Minister: act.

Join Friends of the Earth’s Final Demand campaign at 


Image by rutty via flickr

All the debates about energy getting confusing? Here’s a bitesize breakdown to help you out…

by Maya Robert

It seems every day there’s a new story about our gas and electricity bills. From the recent Energy Summit to the longstanding battle about the cost of heating our homes, energy costs are hitting headlines on an almost daily basis. But what’s really going on and, more importantly, how will it affect our energy prices?

Green Deal

Almost a year in the making, you should be well acquainted with the Green Deal by now. It’s hitting the news now, because the Energy Act has just become law, which means it will be launched in year’s time. The Green Deal is one to watch, because  it means energy suppliers will give you a low-cost loan to pay for energy-saving measures.

Energy suppliers will be able to loan you money to help you pay for energy-efficiency solutions. So if finance was holding you back from getting your home insulated, then the opportunity awaits. The ‘magic rule’ of the Green Deal? Your repayments will always be less than how amount you save on your energy bills, so it won’t leave you out of pocket.

The Energy Summit

Prime minister David Cameron and energy secretary Chris Huhne called a meeting with energy suppliers and consumer regulators such as Ofgem and Consumer Focus to try and do something about rising energy prices.

The result? Not what we might have hoped for. Energy suppliers agreed to send letters to their customers reminding them that they should make sure they’re on the cheapest tariff and to advise their most vulnerable customers to consider having their home insulated. Ovo boss Stephen Fitzpatrick, called the outcomes a ‘really big wasted opportunity’, which left customers wondering if the industry will really change as promised.


The rate of inflation in the UK has been steadily rising and it now stands at 5.2%, due in large part to rising energy bills. It’s no surprise when you consider that the ‘Big Six’ major energy companies have introduced two price rises in less than 12 months and the household energy bills went up by £224 in that period. Rising inflation is increasingly behind politicians debating how they can force these costs down, or at least keep them stable.

Energy company profits

Recent figures from Ofgem suggest that energy suppliers are making £125 in profit per customer in the UK, up from £15 earlier this year (although this has been heavily disputed by some suppliers). Sound enormous? Ofgem thinks so, and has heavily criticised the energy companies.

As part of its  investigation, it wants to see more transparency around profits and wholesale gas prices and a reduction of the monopoly of six energy suppliers on the market. Will this help? Time will only tell, but with suppliers already disputing Ofgem’s figures, it looks like we have a long way to go.

Ian McCaig, deputy chairman of First Utility, looks at a long-term solution to saving money on energy bills.

This week, yet again, we’ve seen optimistic headlines about moves within the energy industry to give consumers a better deal.

Disappointingly though, a lot of it seems to be false hope.  But who can blame energy consumers for searching for shards of hope when things look so bleak? Rising wholesale prices, a raft of recent price rises by the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers and an uncompetitive market dominated by the same six companies  offering consumers little differentiation or choice.

The end result is that consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to control their energy bills and spend.

With winter fast approaching, the cost of energy is on everyone’s mind and it’s no wonder when you consider the recent uSwitch survey that shows that almost a third of consumers (32%) say that energy is already unaffordable in the UK.

Whilst the Government has recently announced plans to review the energy marketplace to ensure greater competition, here at First Utility we believe it’s time for more urgent action. It was with this in mind that this week we launched a ‘Manifesto for Modernising the UK Energy Industry’ to outline key actions that will allow consumers to get the deals they deserve.

There is a lack of competition in the energy industry with the ‘Big Six’ controlling over 99% of the market.

With this kind of structure, the market will continue to work against the interests of consumers and will lead to higher prices unless there is significant reform.

To take action on the ‘Big Six’, we want Ofgem to address the issue of predatory pricing. The ‘Big Six’ are taking advantage of disengaged customers and blocking competition, reducing consumer choice and creating in essence a vicious circle which prevents the growth of newer entrants. This behaviour is anti-competitive, and we also suspect in breach of Ofgem licence conditions.

We also believe there needs to be a greater impetus on a range of other issues such as the national roll-out of smart meters. Smart meters give households the ability to manage their own energy consumption which is critical at a time when the consumers are facing rising energy bills.

All in all there needs to be more action, and urgently.  Consumers deserve more choice and a better deal when it comes to energy. We’re here to shake-up what is an outdated energy industry, to give customers greater visibility of energy usage and therefore put them in control.

Follow First Utility on Twitter @First_Utility or visit our website

by Deborah Burley

Image by savethejellyrabbit via flickr

Price rises, inquiries and accusations of cartel-like behaviour. It’s hardly surprising that more and more people are looking to smaller energy suppliers – but do they offer a genuine alternative?

The Big Six, otherwise known as ScottishPower, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), EDF, British Gas, npower and E.ON are the largest energy suppliers in UK.

However, in recent months they’ve each implemented a series of price rises, which has left many households in Britain struggling to pay their energy bills.

Swamping the market, the Big Six supply over 99% of the UK with energy. It may mean that customers are sometimes unaware of other energy companies out there, and are left feeling that there are no alternatives than to hold on tigichht to their existing supplier – price rise or not.

As well as prices increasing dramatically (the average customer’s bill is now 21% higher than this time last year), there have been other struggles for the Big Six’s customers.

The latest consumer survey for energy from uSwitch found that only 58% of people were satisfied with the customer service received from their supplier.

And the energy industry had another shake recently following news that 27% of households had received the wrong energy bill in the last two years. Shortly after this, it was declared the second worst industry for billing.

It was yet another knockback for energy companies, wh are struggling to improve the consumer confidence.

Energy reform

Energy secretary Chris Huhne has recently pledged to improve the energy industry, by allowing a wider competition to develop amongst energy suppliers.

At the latest Lib Dem conference he said Ofgem would have more control over increasing renewable energy and simplifying tariffs billing systems.

He said that: “It is not fair that big energy companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their consumers – who do not switch – while introducing cut-throat offers for new customers that stop small firms entering the market.

“That looks to me like predatory pricing. It must and will stop.”

It means that smaller energy suppliers will perhaps now have the chance to make an impact on the market, and his opinions may have got people thinking.

Smaller energy suppliers, why switch?

A series of negative stories surrounding the six dominant energy suppliers has given smaller companies a chance to compete and offer the pubic a viable alternative. It means that customers can look outside of the box and decide whether there are other options out there.

Ofgem recently put pressure on gas and electricity suppliers to prove how they calculate energy bills. But, First Utility, for example, is offering its customers free smart meters which automatically take a meter reading every half an hour for accurate bills. It’s their way of proving that their prices can be trusted.

But customers don’t just want a good price for their energy, they’re looking for the extra benefits from their energy suppliers too.

There has been a distinct increase in the sense of social responsibility about where we get our energy from, leaving us more likely to sign up to green suppliers who will relieve our energy guilt as well as our overheads.
Ecotricity, for instance, offers green energy along with lower prices, while Good Energy creates its electricity from renewable sources generated by wind, small-scale hydro and solar power generators around Britain.

EBICo, a not-for-profit company, only offers single-tier gas and electricity tariffs where each unit of energy used costs the same.

The promise of a fixed rate energy tariff  seems to be an attractive one for consumers feeling uneasy about an increased bill. OVO is an example of a smaller supplier offering fixed price plans and it is also offering  paperless bills and tariffs as well as online account management, which is popular among those looking to modernise the relationship they have with their energy supplier and keep all admin waste-free.

What next?                                                                  

At the moment, the ulitmate outcome of this new political attention on the the energy industry waits to be seen. How the energy market might change for the better is still unsure, although some energy suppliers have been making concessions to make bills easier to manage financially.

uSwitch recently supported plans from E.ON to offer customers a reduction on their yearly bill over a two year contract and, with the government’s clearly watchful eye on the gas and electricity suppliers, services may still improve for UK energy users.

For those that aren’t so sure though, and want a change from the biggest energy suppliers, here’s a few of the smaller energy companies worth considering, and their annual price rate:


Plan Name

Payment Method


First Utility

iSave Dual Fuel V8

Monthly Direct Debit



Smart as Standard V2

Monthly Direct Debit



New Energy Fixed*

Monthly Direct Debit


OVO Energy

New Energy Fixed

Monthly Direct Debit


Spark Energy


Monthly Direct Debit


OVO Energy

Green Energy Fixed

Monthly Direct Debit


The Co-Operative Energy


Monthly Direct Debit




Monthly Direct Debit


Telecom Plus

Dual Fuel

Monthly Direct Debit


Good Energy

Good Energy & Gas +

Monthly Direct Debit




Monthly Direct Debit


Telecom Plus

Dual Fuel

Pay on Receipt of Bill


Spark Energy

Standard Plus

Pay on Receipt of Bill