Energy industry veteran Chris Bowden is to launch a new electricity marketplace that aims to finally shake the dominance of Britain’s “big six” suppliers.
Mr Bowden, who has spent 27 years in the energy industry and founded Utilyx, the UK’s largest energy broker, which he sold to Mitie for £16.2m in 2012, is targeting small firms with his new venture, Squeaky.
It is expected to launch this month and will offer customers clean, renewable energy direct from British generators for the same price as “dirty” power. The model is intended to cut out the middle man, and gives small businesses access to the same renewable energy deals that are currently bought by the likes of large companies such as Facebook and Google.
"More than 50pc of wind farms in the US sell direct to a corporate customers now," said Mr Bowden. "But it costs about £60,000 in legal fees alone to set up these wholesale energy contracts."
Over the past year, the 50-year-old entrepreneur has been quietly securing access to 10pc of the UK’s renewable energy capacity – enough electricity to power 100,000 small businesses – and hopes to sign up 5,000 customers in its first year.
Despite its start-up status, Squeaky promises security of supply, and is backed by Europe’s largest renewable generator, which has an A- credit rating. According to Mr Bowden, this makes Squeaky “a more reliable source of electricity than British Gas or npower”.
Squeaky has raised an undisclosed sum from a consortium of angel investors, including metals trader Robby Afnaim. "It’s taken a few million pounds to get into this business," Mr Bowden said of his third start-up. "I’ve put a lot of my personal money into it.
"The big six still control 90pc of the market. It’s taken me many years to come up with a business model that can take on the 800lb gorillas in the market."
The small business energy market has been mired in controversy for many years because contracts are typically opaque, and margins for suppliers can be double those in the domestic sector. A recent report by the Competition & Markets Authority found that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are losing £500m a year on overpriced contracts.