According to research group Cornwall Energy, small suppliers now boast 3.8m households as their customers. As of the third quarter of 2014, the big six have a total of 45.9m, however, these figures are continuing to fall.
According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the number of energy suppliers in the UK has more than trebled since 2010. The largest energy supplier British Gas, supplies 9.1m homes, or 15m accounts. In contrast the largest small supplier, First Utility, has just over 1m accounts.
Small suppliers continue to grow
First Utility, which has consistently offered some of the cheapest deals on gas and electricity since the beginning of 2014, has grown its base to close to 550,000 customers – a ten-fold increase in just three years.
Today First Utility announced it had signed up account number 1,000,000 (taking into account separate gas and electricity accounts). To celebrate the independent supplier launched the First Utility Foundation, which will spend 1% of group profits on supporting vulnerable households.
Other increasingly popular small suppliers include Utility Warehouse (835,000 accounts) and Ovo Energy (640,000 accounts).
At present each of the top five cheapest plans on the market are all offered by small suppliers.
‘Evidence that small suppliers are at last beginning to drive competition’
Speaking on the news, Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch, said: “This is a significant milestone for First Utility and evidence that small suppliers are at last beginning to drive competition and make the energy market work for consumers.
“Many of us can save over £200 by switching to a small supplier, which can make a huge difference to cash-strapped households.
“The growing popularity of companies like First Utility shows that small suppliers are here to stay, thanks to the excellent deals they are offering. If the big six energy providers are to keep hold of their customers, they’ll have to look at introducing more competitive prices and improving their customer service.”
CMA energy market investigation
The news follows the launch of an in-depth enquiry into the energy market, launched by Ofgem and carried out by the Competition and Markets Authority.
The investigation is expected to run until December 2015 and initial research has confirmed that the focus will be on energy costs, service quality, profitability and future investment.
Should the number of people switching to small suppliers continue at present rates, the energy market may well come under less pressure to implement radical changes.