The companies told BBC News ministers were putting pressure on them to commit to a price freeze.
But Treasury sources say this is not part of their plan – and they were looking instead at cutting the industry’s green commitments to help keep prices down.
Labour, who want a price freeze, said government policy was a “shambles”.
Energy industry sources told the BBC on Thursday that the government wants to avoid another round of price rises that could be blamed on state-enforced green levies and the two sides had been holding talks about plans which could result in average bills falling by £50.
Government sources have confirmed that they have been engaged in what they describe as an “information gathering” exercise with the energy sector.
But they insisted they were not pleading with the “big six” energy firms to hold bills down in the run-up to the 2015 general election, saying this was “not part of the package” on the table.