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1 October 2020

How to choose the best energy company

Why you should consider more than just price when you choose your energy company. Use our research to find the best gas and electricity firm for you.
Energy bills 470956

There are more energy companies to choose from than there are weeks in the year – and the number of gas and electricity suppliers in Great Britain is constantly growing. But the last few years also saw several energy companies go bust, so picking one from the ever-changing list can be daunting.

Around seven in 10 of us still buy our energy from one of the traditional biggest six suppliers. All of them ranked in the bottom third out of the 35 energy suppliers included in our latest energy companies satisfaction survey.

So there’s every reason to shop around to find an energy supplier to suit you, whether you’re looking for the cheapest deal on the market, renewable energy, great online service, smart meters, a local firm or something else.

Our energy satisfaction survey results are a unique insight into what customers really think of their energy suppliers. You can use this, plus our expert advice, to cut through marketing jargon and money-saving claims to find the best energy suppliers.

Use our research below to help find the best energy firm for you. Or if you just want the cheapest, compare gas and electricity prices with Which? Switch.

Find the best energy company for you

Here you'll find out about energy suppliers which deliver what you want, but you might not have heard of some of them before.

Tell us what’s important to you in an energy supplier in our quiz below and then jump straight to find out more about suppliers offering exactly that.

Or scroll down to find out more about green energy suppliers, firms with an online focus, ones which offer the latest in smart home technology, innovative tariffs, or locally-run gas and electricity suppliers.

Looking for the best and worst energy firms in Northern Ireland? Head to our guide to Northern Ireland electricity and gas companies.

Renewable energy companies

A growing number of energy companies, and even more tariffs, brand themselves 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.

Ecotricity, Good Energy and Green Energy UK are the most longstanding renewable energy companies. They only offer tariffs backed by 100% renewable electricity and supply a proportion of ‘green gas’ (from biomethane). Ecotricity is building a green gas mill. Good Energy buys all of its electricity from more than 1,400 independent renewable generators.

Other energy suppliers selling only tariffs with 100% renewable electricity include Bulb Energy, Co-operative Energy, Octopus Energy, Pure Planet, and Tonik Energy.

You’ll find other energy firms offer a tariff with 100% renewable electricity, for example British Gas or Green Network Energy, though their other tariffs may have a different fuel mix.

Additionally, some suppliers have begun to 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 and user-friendly websites.

For example, Pure Planet provides online-only customer services. Boost and Utilita provide top-up for prepayment customers via their apps. Ovo Energy’s online account allows customers to see how much they’re spending on running different types of home appliances.

Live chat is becoming more widely available, and can be a quick way to get a response from your energy company. We went undercover to find out how fast energy companies reply on live chat and email – see the results of our energy customer waiting times investigation.

Most energy companies are now installing smart meters, which should be second-generation meters. They come with an in-home digital display, plus many suppliers also offer an app and online account through which you can see and use your energy use data. Check our smart meters guide to find out what you need to know before you get a smart meter.

Increasing numbers of suppliers are selling smart home products, or including them free when you sign up to certain tariffs. For example:

  • British Gas sells smart products from its Hive brands, including smart thermostats, smart plugs, motion sensors, smart light bulbs and home cameras
  • EDF Energy sells Nest smart thermostats, as well as smart speakers, video doorbells, plugs and smart lightbulbs from a range of brands
  • Eon and SSE sell Tado smart thermostats and smart radiator controls
  • Scottish Power sells Honeywell smart thermostats

Energy and broadband bundles

Utility Warehouse was the original company to bundle multiple home services together in one monthly bill. You can buy broadband, home phone and mobile packages from it, as well as energy.

But others are now getting in on the action. SSE and Shell Energy also sell broadband.

Boiler cover and insurance

Several of the bigger energy companies, such as British Gas, Ovo Energy, SSE and Scottish Power, sell boiler cover which often comes with call-out repair services if yours breaks. 

Before you buy, read our advice on how to choose the best boiler cover.

Innovative energy tariffs

There used to be a rule that limited energy companies to selling just four different tariffs. Since that was scrapped, increasing numbers of different tariffs are appearing.

Smart tariffs 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. 

Green Energy UK and Octopus Energy have offered these smart time-of-use tariffs, but they’re expected to become more widespread as smart meters are rolled out.

Tracker tariffs 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. 

Octopus Energy is among suppliers offering this type of tariff, though they’re all slightly different.

Powershop also offers an unusual way of buying energy. Customers buy ‘powerpacks' of energy in advance. They’re usually discounted compared with the usual rate so the idea is that you can save money by buying upfront.

Local energy firms

Energy firms such as Angelic Energy, Fosse Energy, Great North Energy, London Power and Ram Energy are partnerships between local councils and existing energy companies to supply local residents with cheaper rates for gas and electricity.

National energy firms sometimes sell tariffs available only in specific areas. For example Co-operative Energy has sold cheaper tariffs for customers living near its wind farms in Scotland, while Robin Hood Energy supplies customers nationwide but offers some cheaper deals to those who live in Derbyshire and Nottingham.

Pay-as-you-go energy

Boost, E and Utilita focus on customers with prepayment energy meters (though you can also be a customer of Utilita with other payment methods).

Customers with smart meters can top-up online, using a smartphone app, via text message and point as well as at Paypoint outlets.

Utilita says it has installed smart meters in around 90% of its customers’ homes.

If you have a PAYG energy meter, or are considering one, read our advice on is a prepayment energy meter right for me?