A guide to the ‘big six’ energy suppliers

The big six energy suppliers – these are the largest energy suppliers in the UK. But who are they, where have they come from and why are they so big? Plus, does bigger mean better when it comes to choosing where your energy comes from?

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Where did the big six energy suppliers come from?

Way back when, there was really only one gas supplier (British Gas) and one electricity provider (the Central Electricity Generating Board) and nobody really had much say in the matter as the two were owned by the state. But in the 1990s when Britain went all cool and hip, the government decided to shake things up even more and finalised plans to privatise the energy sector. The resulting break up gave us PowerGen, National Power, Nuclear Energy and British Gas.

power plant

Who are the big six energy suppliers today?

After various mergers and break ups, we’re now left with the big six of today who provide gas or electricity to more than 85% of UK homes:

  • British Gas – the largest supplier of energy warming up 11 million homes with gas and lighting up six million with electricity.
  • SSE – the second largest supplier with nearly nine million customers.
  • EDF Energy – provide energy to around six million homes.
  • E.ON – powers up about seven millions households
  • npower – provides five million houses with gas and electricity.
  • Scottish Power – although called Scottish Power they’re actually Spanish owned and provide energy to five million homes.

Is it best to stick with one of the big six?

It depends on what you’re after. You might think big means better prices but that’s not always the case and just because one provider is bigger than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean your supply is any more efficient. Energy is energy, regardless of who you buy it from, it’ll all come to your pipes and switches the same way so it’s all down to personal preference, cost and, customer service.

The big six are big because they provide the majority of households with energy and have the most customers – but much of this is down to historical factors, not necessarily down to great service and best prices.

So it may be worth shopping around if you are with one of the big six. Independent suppliers are good news for customers – increased competition means genuine choice and greater potential for saving money.

What should I look for when switching?

You’ll need to work out what your priorities are. For some, price will be all that matters or you might be happy to pay for better customer service, or green energy. If you’re environmentally minded, this might play a big factor in who you opt for – some of the smaller independent suppliers source 100% of their energy from renewable sources and the warm feeling you get inside for doing good might just offset their slightly higher prices.

When it comes to switching it’s handy to know what tariff you’re already on (your most recent bill will tell you). But before you make a decision, think carefully about whether your existing tariff is right for you. Your current supplier might be able to offer you a better tariff rather than just switching to a different supplier on a like for like package. With 35 electricity suppliers and 39 gas suppliers in the UK market, there’ll be a tariff to suit you, your energy use and your budget.

Finding an alternative to the big six

We’re not ones to brag but when it comes to switching energy supplier we have saved our customers over £54 million so far in 2016!***. And it’s not hard to do either – switching’s simples, just have your latest bill to hand and tell us where you live. So why not start a quote online today and see how much you could save?


***Total sum of savings calculated from comparethemarket.com dual fuel customer switches from Jan-Jul 2016