16 May 2014

Six projects competing with the big six energy firms

With E.ON joining the list of energy companies having to pay a penalty for mis-selling, many consumers are switching to new providers – but what are the options?

Since 2010, Ofgem has imposed £100m in fines and redress on energy companies for various rule breaches, including £39m for mis-selling. E.ON is the latest energy supplier to be fined following an investigation. Scottish Power, EDF, npower and SSE have also had to pay fines.

The number of people who switched electricity supplier at the end of 2013 also reached record levels. Industry data provider ElectraLink said more than 615,000 people switched during the month of November, the highest number yet recorded.

According to research from price comparison site uSwitch, almost three quarters of consumers (72 per cent) would now switch to a small supplier – up from 56 per cent last year and 52 per cent in 2012.

Fewer than one in five consumers (19 per cent) would be content to stick with the big six because they are satisfied, down from 22 per cent last year. But 31 per cent of consumers would be worried about a small supplier going bust and 23 per cent would not trust a supplier they had not heard of.

According to the This Is Money website, the smaller suppliers customers are turning to include Ovo, First Utility, Co-op and Green Star Energy – but there are also other alternatives:

Not-for-profit energy suppliers

Energy supplier Ebico charges all of its customers the same rate and they only pay for the energy they use. The company also aims to help people who are at risk of fuel poverty by improving the energy efficiency of low-income households.

Another not-for-profit supplier is Co-operative Energy – which is owned by customers, not shareholders, and follows the principles of fair and ethical trade.

Local generation projects

Good Energy is committed to local generation projects and differs from other energy companies by offering good energy bonds. It gives customers an opportunity to invest in renewable energy generation projects which will then produce power sold by Good Energy.

Pre-payment meters

Elsewhere Utilita focuses on pre-payment meters which show consumption and can be topped-up by phone and Spark Energy uses meters which can be read remotely, so customers need never receive an estimated bill, or a visit from a meter reader.

Green energy

Companies such as Ecotricity use customers’ energy bills to fund the building of new sources of green energy. Based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, it specialises in selling green energy to consumers that is primarily generated from its wind power portfolio.

On Wednesday the company bought small wind turbine company Evance out of administration and plans to bring the Loughborough-based manufacturer’s new “innovative windmill design” to market within the next 12 months.


According to the This Is Money website – a network of small hydro-electric generators in village streams and rivers could provide enough electricity to power one in 20 households. Five mini-power plants are already up and running and the Environment Agency has given the go-ahead for 500 projects.

As well as offering an alternative energy supply, the schemes are attracting investors, with talk of making 7 per cent a year by selling electricity back to the National Grid.

Renewable energy

The Roupell Park estate in Brixton, south London, is home to two community renewable energy schemes, reports the Guardian. One is a multi-million pound combined heat and power system.

The other is made up of roof-top solar panels part-owned by the residents themselves via a community co-operative set up by entrepreneur Agamemnon Otero only last year, and fully operational as of September.