The 1990s was a decade of significant change for the UK energy sector. At the start of the decade both British Gas and all regional electricity boards were privatised. This completely transformed the industry from a state-owned monopoly sector to a privately owned one. Subsequently six major energy suppliers emerged â€“ commonly referred to as the Big Six. The Big Six included British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npwer, Scottish Power and SSE.
The idea behind privatising the energy sector was to increase efficiency and reduce prices by introducing competition and offering households more options. However, the reality was quite different. The Big Six took advantage of the newly liberalized market, formed an oligopoly and focused on making as much profit as possible for their shareholders. By the end of the decade, energy prices were rocket high and many households were left unable to pay their bills. Ebico decided to do something about it.
In 1998 we came up with a new not-for-profit business model that focused on tackling Britainâ€™s fuel poverty issue and giving back to our customers. Unlike the Big Six suppliers, Ebico set up as a Limited by Guarantee Company. This meant that instead of focusing on shareholders and profit, we could focus on re-investing our financial surpluses in our business and helping those in, or at risk of, fuel poverty.
Our mission was simple – to offer affordable energy deals to everyone and fight fuel poverty. We found that households using Pay As You Go meters were generally the households which struggled the most financially, yet they were the ones being discriminated against and were not being offered the best prices by energy suppliers.
In 2009 Ebico went one step further and became the first energy company to set up a system whereby any of our operating surplus was donated to a charity, the Ebico Trust. The Ebico Trust was created to support projects in fuel-poor communities, helping them reduce their energy bills. Our donations to the Trust exceeded 1.3m.
In January 2017, to boost our commitment to our fight against fuel poverty, we established a new energy partnership with Robin Hood Energy. Like Ebico, Robin Hood Energy is a not-for-profit company and is dedicated to providing affordable energy. Together, we can continue our fight against rising fuel poverty in the UK, providing energy deals that function fairly for all consumers.
Today, the Big Six continue to dominate the industry. Combined, they have about 79% of market share for electricity and 78% for gas (December 2017). This could be due to the fact that over most households in Britain have never changed suppliers.
In the past 20 years Ebico has driven a lot of change, but we still have more work to do in the coming years. Although there has been progress, and we are on the way to tackling fuel poverty and creating a fairer energy market, we still feel there is a lot more we could do to help.
Our goals for the next coming years are to:
- Continue to help as many financially vulnerable households out of fuel poverty as possible
- Continue to develop innovative energy plans for our customers to suit modern day living