With wholesale prices climbing like never before, there’s never been a more important time to consider more than just price when selecting your energy company. Our research can help you find the best gas and electricity firm for you when switching is back on the cards.
There are currently fewer than 30 energy companies to choose from in 2022, down from more than fifty at the start of last year. Although switching supplier isn’t advisable at present, we’ve pulled together some tips on how to switch when doing so becomes a tempting option once again. The five biggest firms – British Gas, Ovo Energy (which includes the SSE brand), EDF Energy, Eon and Scottish Power – supply gas and electricity to around 70% of British households. However, the results of our latest energy supplier survey show that many of these big-name brands, including British Gas, EDF and SSE, sit in the lower half of our table. Our energy satisfaction survey results give you unique insight into what your fellow customers really think of their energy suppliers. You can use this, plus our expert advice, to cut through the marketing jargon and money-saving claims to find the best energy suppliers. Keep scrolling for advice on how to find the best energy firm for you. Alternatively, use Which? Switch to compare gas and electricity prices. Looking for energy firms in Northern Ireland? Head to our guide to Northern Ireland electricity and gas companies.
Renewable energy companies
A large and growing number of energy companies, and even more tariffs, are branded as ‘green’. But there’s no set definition of what ‘green’ means, so it’s worth checking before you sign up to make sure you’re getting what you expect. In October 2021, we asked more than 40 energy companies to tell us specifics about the green electricity and gas they sell to homes. After scoring each company, we made Ecotricity and Good Energy our first Eco Providers for energy. When ranking the energy companies, we considered the following: Sale of renewable electricity Generating and buying renewable power Matching customers’ use with renewable power Carbon intense power Green gas Transparency and website clarity For more details, see our page on Eco Providers for energy. Ecotricity was the first company to offer ‘green electricity’ made from renewable sources – it sits alongside Good Energy as one of the most longstanding renewable energy companies. Both firms only sell tariffs backed by 100% renewable electricity and supply a proportion of ‘green gas’ (from biomethane). Ecotricity uses money from its customers’ bills to fund new renewable generation. Good Energy, meanwhile, buys its electricity from more than 1,600 independent renewable generators and Green Energy UK sells 100% green gas.
Other energy suppliers selling only tariffs with 100% renewable electricity include Eon, Octopus Energy, Ovo Energy and So Energy. You’ll also find other energy firms selling ‘zero carbon’ tariffs. These include British Gas and EDF Energy. This usually means their electricity comes from either renewables or nuclear power. The majority of energy firms offer a tariff with 100% renewable electricity, though their other tariffs may have a different fuel mix entirely. Additionally, some suppliers sell a proportion of green gas (usually from biomethane) and invest in carbon reduction or carbon offset schemes for their gas tariffs.
Online energy and smart home technology
Some newer energy firms claim to be digitally focused and pride themselves on slick online service, apps and user-friendly websites. Boost and Utilita provide top-up for customers with smart prepayment meters (not traditional meters) via their apps. Ovo Energy’s online account allows customers to see how much they’re spending on running different types of home appliances. Smart meters Energy companies are now installing smart meters (which should be second-generation meters). These come with an in-home digital display.
essentially aim to replace your existing gas and electricity meters, using a wi-fi connection to send your usage figures straight to your energy supplier. Most smart meters have a mode where you can set an energy budget and monitor if you’re on track.
Many suppliers offer their own mobile apps through which you can monitor your energy usage. For example, the British Gas (shown below) app allows customers to log in securely, send meter readings and pay bills in a couple of taps. It also acts as a resource through which customers can book an engineer.
Smart home products
We’ve seen plenty of suppliers that are selling smart-home products too, or including them free when you sign up to certain tariffs. That list of suppliers includes:
British Gas – sells smart products from its Hive brands, including smart thermostats, smart plugs, motion sensors, smart light bulbs and security cameras that monitor your home while you’re out. In 2022, British Gas sells the Hive Starter Pack for £129 per year – it includes a Hive hub, two bulbs, a motion sensor and a plug.
Eon – offers Tado smart thermostats and smart radiator controls. By installing the Tado system, customers can control their heating remotely from a mobile phone. Plus, using geolocation technology, the system can automatically turn off the heating if it sees there’s nobody at home.
OVO Energy – currently offers the Tado smart thermostat at £120 now, or £10 a month for 12 months.
Scottish Power – sells Honeywell smart thermostats, helping customers to manage their energy more efficiently on the go. The accompanying mobile app has details on current temperature both indoors and outdoors. Meanwhile, Honeywell’s Frost Protection feature detects low temperatures and automatically turns the heating on to protect against frozen pipes.
Shell Energy – has a range of internet-enabled gadgets on its website, including smart light bulbs, smart plugs and wireless security cameras. The energy supplier says one of its ‘most popular’ products is the TCP Smart, a colour-changing light bulb that can be controlled through a phone or using voice commands.
Energy and broadband bundles
Some firms will bundle multiple home services together in one monthly bill – Utility Warehouse was the first firm to do this. Utility Warehouse provides energy, broadband, mobile and home insurance in one package. The firm says this allows customers to ‘get on with the important things in life.’ During our latest energy supplier survey, we heard from a number of Utility warehouse customers that appreciated the system. But it’s not the only supplier to bundle services. SSE offers boiling and heating cover, phone and broadband services, while Shell Energy sells broadband.
Boiler cover and insurance
Several larger energy companies sell boiler cover which often comes with call-out repair services if yours breaks. Firms that provide boiler cover include British Gas, Ovo Energy, Shell Energy, Scottish Power and SSE.
Customers with EDF Energy can also grab a boiler maintenance plan thanks to a partnership with Domestic & General. The firm offers three plans: BoilerCare Gold, BoilerCare Platinum and BoilerCare Total. BoilerCare Gold is around £7 per month and includes boiler maintenance, an annual service and a replacement boiler up to £750 if required.
Innovative energy tariffs
The majority of tariffs are structured around a daily standing charge, plus a set rate for each unit of energy you use. The charges and rates are different for gas and electricity. But there are different types of tariffs if you look for them, mostly enabled by smart meters.
This require you to have a smart meter installed. Sometimes they offer a discount compared with a regular meter tariff. Other smart tariffs give lower prices for electricity used at specific times of day. Octopus Energy’s Agile Octopus tariff is one of these. It tracks half-hourly wholesale prices and updates its rates daily. So customers can save money by using electricity at times when it’s cheaper. Occasionally energy prices fall below zero and customers get an alert so they can take advantage. The government expects smart tariffs to become more widespread as smart meters are further rolled out, more people have electric vehicles and electricity demand increases.
Usually, EV tariffs require you to have a smart meter, as well as an electric vehicle charger. Customers can get cheaper electricity for a few hours overnight, usually, to help charge their car’s battery for less. A growing selection of energy suppliers sell EV tariffs, including British Gas, EDF Energy, Octopus Energy and Ovo Energy. Many have their own additional perks – OVO Drive members receive £70 off a home smart charger and get entered into a competition to win a new car.
These pass the cost of wholesale energy directly onto the customer. The aim is to make the price you pay for energy much more transparent. When the wholesale cost drops, you’ll see the savings passed on. But if it increases, you’ll pay more too. For example, Octopus Energy describes its Octopus Tracker as ‘Britain’s first tariff to truly follow the wholesale price of energy.’
Several energy suppliers focus on customers with prepayment energy meters, such as Boost Energy (which only takes on customers with prepayment meters) and Utilita. Boost Energy’s Smart PAYG plan allows customers to top up online, or in the firm’s mobile app. Utilita has a similar system in place, where customers use the My Utilita app to check their energy credit and top up.