Despite relentless campaigning by politicians and the media over many years, the UK energy market is still dominated by the so-called Big Six energy firms, supplying around 95% of households with gas and electricity. That's not to say there aren't any credible alternatives to the Big Six, far from it in fact.
Music to the ears
There are countless smaller suppliers trying to gain a foothold in the energy market by offering excellent deals to customers willing to make the switch, but unfortunately the Great British public can sometimes be resistant to change, even if it means missing out on hundreds of pounds worth of savings each year.
Figures show that only four in 10 UK households have changed energy provider, with a uSwitch survey revealing that 44% of Big Six customers wouldn't even consider moving to a smaller supplier. That's certainly not good news for those seeking a more competitive market, but is probably music to the ears of stakeholders in the larger energy firms.
Profit from cold winters
For those looking to profit from cold winters and disappointing summers, there's no better way than to invest in one of the larger UK energy suppliers. The question remains which one? Some UK-focused investors may be surprised to learn that only two of the Big Six suppliers are listed on the London Stock Exchange, the rest have been taken over, with some under foreign ownership.
British Gas is the UK's largest domestic supplier of gas and electricity and is owned by FTSE 100 integrated energy giant Centrica(LSE: CNA). In its most recent trading update the Windsor-based firm said it was continuing to make good progress against its strategic priorities and now expects to exceed its original targets for 2016. The group also highlighted savings of over £300m as part of its £750m annual cost efficiency programme, with like-for-like operating costs likely to be lower than in the previous financial year.
Centrica continues to offer generous levels of income to its large army of private investors, with the 2016 payout expected to be lifted 2.5% to 12.3p per share, and by a further 3.5% to 12.73p per share in 2017, bringing the prospective dividend yield up to a chunky 5.4%.
The only other London-listed Big Six energy supplier that investors can currently sink their chattering teeth into is SSE(LSE: SSE). Formerly known as Scottish & Southern Energy, the group owns Scottish Hydro Electric, Southern Electric, SWALEC and Atlantic brands, and is the UK's largest generator of renewable energy.
The Perth-based group is expected to increase its revenues to £30bn this year with pre-tax profits exceeding £1.5bn. The inflation-proof dividend continues to rise with the prospective yield at 5.9% and 6% for this year and next. SSE is ideal for investors looking for a defensive utility with a reliable progressive dividend.
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Bilaal Mohamed has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Centrica. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.