A Guide to the 'Big Six' Energy providers
Whenever there’s talk about energy prices in the media, you’ll often hear reference to the ‘Big Six’ energy providers.
So, who are they? Why are they the ‘Big Six'? And what have they done recently for their customers?
Here you’ll discover everything you need to know about these energy providers and why they’re the key players in the energy market.
The market share of the 'Big Six'
Since the privatisation of the energy markets in the 90’s, the ‘Big Six’ have dominated the domestic and commercial sector. At their height, they owned 100% collectively. Since 2014 however, this grip has slackened, with reduced boundaries to entry and higher switching rates - due to improved and simplified access - eroding their market share and resulting in a 10% drop in profits to £900 million.
With nearly 70 energy suppliers now registered in the UK, the energy market has never been more competitive and consumer driven. But despite this seismic shift, the ‘Big Six’ still control roughly 75% of the gas and electricity supply.
In this updated article we look at the current landscape of the energy market in the context of the ‘Big Six’, how they’ve reacted and evolved to changes and how despite their size, they might still be the right supplier of choice for your company.
As the UK’s largest energy supplier, British Gas needs little introduction. Offering domestic and commercial energy, British Gas operates as Scottish Gas in Scotland and currently employ more than 30,000 people.
British Gas is owned by The Centrica Group, who continue to fund gas and oil exploration ventures in the UK, Europe and North America, all with vast success.
After Centrica unveiled their 2018 full year preliminary results, shares in British Gas dropped to a 16-year low.
The company announced that it had lost 742,000 of its 25 million household energy customers, and that it could take a £300 million hit due to the recent price cap on energy bills.
British Gas (Centrica) reported a Net income of £242 million in 2018
Who’s in charge?
Mark Hodges is leading British Gas as Managing Director after being appointed in June 2015, whilst Richard Haythornthwaite heads up Centrica after becoming Chairman in January 2014.
E.ON comes from the Greek term aeon, which translates as eternity. The company came onto the energy scene back in 2000, born from the merging of two of Germany’s largest industrial groups, VEBA and VIAG.
They grew substantially in 2007 when the company took over former energy providers Powergen, and they currently employ around 43,000 employees and have over 5 million domestic and business customers.
E.ON recently landed in hot water by sending their customers letters and text messages saying they needed to upgrade to smart meters in their homes.
Although listing the potential benefits of smart meters, such as accurate energy readings and an end to estimated bills, it is not compulsory for customers to upgrade and many still refuse to make the change.
E.ON recorded a Net income in 2018 of over £3.6bn.
Who’s in charge?
Tony Cocker, the former CEO of E.ON, worked in a number of roles from 1996 until his retirement in July 2017. E.ON is now led by CEO and Chairman Johannes Teyssen, who at one stage pursued a doctorate degree at Boston University before returning to Germany.
Part of the colossal German group RWE, npower has become one of the UK’s most recognised energy brands following several high-profile advertising campaigns, including several successful sporting event sponsorships.
The firm has around 4.8 million domestic and business energy customers in the UK.
Bernhard Günther, the finance chief of Innogy, of which npower is a subsidiary, claims that winding down npower is an option after suffering from significant company losses.
Günther expects a negative ebit result from the UK retail market of around €250m in 2019 and possibly another €150m in 2020. He blames their losses to “irrational pricing behaviour of competitors”, adding that npower has always said that they wouldn’t, “try to buy customers at a loss”
After losing 155,000 accounts npower recorded a Net income of roughly £668 million in 2018.
Who’s in charge?
Paul Coffey is the CEO of npower, having spent 16 years with the company. It took him just two years with npower before being appointed Chief Executive Officer.
SSE (otherwise known as Scottish and Southern Energy Plc) burst onto the energy scene around 16 years ago when Scottish Hydro and Southern Electric merged, later incorporating Swalec (South Wales Electricity Board). On their own, this partnership has become a fairly big name in the industry, generating their own energy and employing around 20,000 employees.
Of all the suppliers in the ‘Big Six’, SSE is one of the most ethical. They are the second biggest supplier of natural gas and electricity in the UK and are also the UK’s largest officially accredited Living Wage employer. Their employees are all guaranteed to earn at least £7.85 an hour.
Ofgem recently appointed SSE to take on customers of Brilliant Energy Supply Ltd after the small supplier ceased trading. Brilliant Energy’s 17,000 domestic customers have been protected by Ofgem’s safety net and have been offered competitive tariffs from SSE, who are honouring all outstanding credit balances of former Brilliant Energy customers. This brings SSE’s current customer base to over 3.5 million.
As of 2018, SSE reported a Net income of £920 million.
Who’s in charge?
Alistair Phillips-Davies, who was appointed in July 2013 to replace Ian Marchant. He previously worked in corporate finance and business development before joining Southern Electric in 1997.
Scottish Power acquired the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board (MANWEB) back in 1995, making strides in the ever-competitive industry. After 12 years of building Scottish Power, Spanish energy giants, Iberdrola, invited the company to be part of their group, making Scottish Power one of the biggest energy suppliers in the UK. Like SSE, Scottish Power is a great supporter of renewable energy.
They are also proud supporters of Cancer Research UK, having raised around £9m for the charity since starting a relationship back in 2012.
After the failure of Extra Energy, Ofgem has appointed Scottish Power to take on their 108,000 domestic customers and 21,000 business customers. All former Extra Energy customers will be offered competitive tariffs and will have their existing credit honoured – offset against future bills. This brings their total customer count to over 5.6 million.
Scottish Power announced a Net income of over £507 million in 2018.
Who’s in charge?
Keith Anderson, formerly CEO of Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) and Chief Corporate Officer of Scottish Power, was promoted to CEO of Scottish Power in February 2018. His new role gives Anderson ultimate responsibility for all Scottish Power businesses.
The final player in Love Energy Savings’ guide to the ‘Big Six’ is EDF. This supplier is based in France and now provides gas and electricity to around 5 million customers in the UK. EDF are big investors in nuclear energy, having acquired UK nuclear generators British Energy back in 2009.
The firm has eight nuclear power stations in the UK. EDF firmly believe in low-carbon electricity, energy production and nuclear investment, generating around a fifth of the UK’s electrical energy. This has led to EDF securing over 5.5 million customers.
EDF are in the final stages of planning a new nuclear power station in Suffolk, however, there are still hurdles to overcome.
The local authorities are still not able to fully support the plans due to a lack of detailed proposals. This could prove problematic for EDF, meaning they may need to look for alternative means of expansion.
EDF reported a Net income of over £2 billion in 2018.
Who’s in charge?
Simone Rossi heads up EDF as CEO after succeeding Vincent de Rivas in November 2017. Before taking up his new role, Rossi served as the Group Senior Executive Vice President from 2015 to 2017.
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