Previously run by the British state, Utilities have proved to be one of the UK’s key areas for expansion and growth since being privatised under the government of Margaret Thatcher in the late 1980s and early 1990s – though many would argue that the positive steps have been more than outweighed by the negatives.
The energy industry is currently dominated by the so-called “Big Six”, made up of British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE – who together are responsible for an estimated 98% of Britain’s gas and electricity markets. The extent to which they have cornered business was shown by First Utility now being ranked as the 7th largest energy supplier in the country, heralded as an enormous success despite only managing to obtain a 1% market-share.
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Critics of the current structure of the utilities industry have pointed to the frequent record profits that energy suppliers have made in recent years, despite the fact that some of the most vulnerable members of society are living in ‘fuel poverty’, and are unable to pay for their heating throughout the winter. The government have frequently attempted to address this matter, but have thus far been unsuccessful in reducing energy fees – with increasing cost of fossil fuel worldwide being cited by companies as one of the main contributing factors in these incremental price rises.
The business of water provision has remained somewhat more regulated than energy, with the government providing a licence to individual suppliers who are each responsible for one area of the UK. Some have argued that this tight legislation has hindered progress for business, and the effective monopoly that companies like United Utilities and Yorkshire Water have mean customers are left with a lack of choice over an important service for their home.