Wondering which suppliers are "British-made"? In this Energy Q&A session, we answer a query about which energy companies are homegrown and which countries the UK buys its energy from.
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It might surprise you to learn which of the big six suppliers are owned and operated by foreign companies. Below you’ll find a breakdown of where each big six company’s ownership lies.
However, most of the energy consumed in the UK is imported from other countries, so it's unlikely that 100% of your energy is British, even if the supplier is British-owned-and-operated.
See our list of the big six suppliers and where their company headquarters are based:
As its name suggests, British Gas is indeed British-owned. British Gas is the oldest energy company in the UK, having been founded in 1812 as the Gas Light and Coke Company (GLCC) before taking the name British Gas in 1973. Centrica, British Gas’ parent company, is a multinational utility company based in Windsor, Berkshire.
EDF Energy was formed after French energy company Electricite de France purchased London Energy. Therefore, EDF Energy is French-state-owned. It is also one of the largest distribution network operators in the UK after taking control of the UK nuclear generator, British Energy.
SSE was formed in 1998 after a merger of Scottish Hydro Electric and Southern Electric. SSE's headquarters are located in Perth, Scotland. SEE also includes the sub-brands SSE Atlantic, SSE Southern Electric, SSE SWALEC and SSE Scottish Hyrdo.
This big six supplier is owned by Innogy SE, a subsidiary of the German company RWE, which is an incorporation of Germany’s leading energy companies.
ScottishPower was formed in 1990 after the state-owned Scottish electricity industry became privatised. Its headquarters may be located in Glasgow but, since 2006, the supplier has been a subsidiary of Spanish utility company Iberdrola.
Founded in 1989, known back then as Powergen, this big six supplier was purchased by German energy company E.ON in 2002. Its headquarters are located in Dusseldorf.
Which countries does my energy come from?
In recent years, the UK has imported more of its energy supply than it exports from other countries.
Approximately 60% of the UK energy supply comes from abroad: from countries including Russia, Norway, Qatar, Sweden and the Netherlands, among many more.
Around 60% of the UK's natural gas imports come from Norway, and 30% of it comes from Qatar.
Around half of the UK's crude oil imports come from Norway, and just over 30% comes from OPEC.
OPEC is the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and has 14 member states that all combine to coordinate international trade policies on petroleum and sell their products together.
OPEC's members include Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Gabon and others mostly in the Middle East region.
This trend of importing more energy than exporting isn't just happening in the UK though. All EU countries now import more energy than they export.
Why don't we get more energy from within the UK?
There has been a decline in gas and oil production in the North Sea, so the UK has been getting more and more of its energy from other countries.
Despite the UK using less energy and increasing its use of renewable sources, our dependence on imported energy has returned to levels not seen since the 1970s.
However, this is also a result of the UK's shift away from fossil fuels and to cleaner energy sources. The UK has been investing less in fossil fuel production and more on renewables.
Is the UK using less energy than before?
Yes, the general trend shows that the UK as a whole is consuming less energy than in recent times. From the period between 1998 and 2015, there was a 17% fall in the UK's energy consumption. Despite there being a steady increase in the UK population, the amount of energy being consumed continues to fall.
There are three main arguments explaining why this might be happening:
- More households becoming energy-efficient
- Government policies
- A decline in UK manufacturing
Small measures like energy saving light bulbs and devices start to make a big difference when everyone starts using them. Plus, due to technological advances, more and more of the products we use at home and at work are becoming better at conserving energy.
Over the years, government policies have been focused on reducing energy consumption and have put regulations and restrictions in place on how much energy businesses and products can consume. There have also been measures and investments to support the promotion of energy saving technology.
The manufacturing industry is very energy-intensive. According to a 2014 article from The Telegraph, the biggest consumers of energy are metal producers, chemical manufacturers and tobacco factories. The decline of this industry and its jobs has meant that the UK as a whole consumes less energy.
Want to learn more about energy suppliers?
Thirsty for more energy knowledge? Find out more about all suppliers, including pricing history, independent customer reviews and more information about the big six and independent energy providers in our energy suppliers guides section.