The UK’s big six energy firms have a stranglehold on the market. Now, a clutch of locally-run alternatives are trying to win over customers and help save the planet
Despite successive governments attempting to open up the energy market, the supply of electricity and gas to our homes and offices is still dominated by a handful of household names – 82 per cent of UK households are supplied by one of the ‘big six’: British Gas, EDF, E.ON Scottish Power, SSE and npower. The rest of the population receives its energy supply from 63 other smaller suppliers, a number which has grown significantly over the past decade – in 2004 there were just seven.
A small number of consumers, a fraction of one per cent, pay companies tied to their local councils to provide energy – and councils would like that to happen more often.
Since the establishment of the National Grid in the late 1940s, responsibility for the supply of energy to households and businesses has moved back and forth between the state and private companies. In the 1990s, a slew of private firms – many spun out from existing state-supported regional energy suppliers – began to dominate after a government-mandated opening up of the energy market.