Energy giants triggered a fierce backlash yesterday after unveiling massive profits powered by soaring oil and gas prices.
Shell reported record quarterly profits of £9.5bn, while British Gas owner Centrica revelled in a five-fold increase in annual earnings, which climbed to £1.3bn.
Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Shell, said he was “very aware” of the hardship facing Brits this winter but described the situation as a “global problem.”
However, Centrica boss Chris O’Shea raised eyebrows by calling on the Government to dip into the public purse again to alleviate high energy prices, despite its own lucrative earnings and Downing Street’s already announced £15bn package of support for households.
He said: “We wait to see if there will be more intervention. We very much welcome that. We’ve been calling for more support for consumers.”
The firm also revealed it would bring back its dividend alongside the results.
Politicians called for the government to clamp down further on North Sea oil and gas profits by closing loopholes designed to incentivise development in the region, though critics continue to so-called windfall tax as a misjudged intervention that will damage the UK’s global standing.
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband urged the Government to re-think investment relief included in the windfall tax for fossil fuel companies.
He slammed this as an “obscene decision when families are facing a true cost of living emergency.”
This was echoed by BEIS Select Committee chair Darren Jones, who labelled investment relief as a “loophole” and instead called for the money to funnelled into support for billpayers this winter.
Forecasts for the consumer price cap – which establishes the highest price the average household should pay for their energy – spiked this week, with predictions climbing to £3,500 per year in October and £3,850 in January.
Such a hike in energy bills will likely plunge millions more people into fuel poverty, and leave households with less discretionary spend.
Centrica’s shares finished down just shy of a percentage point, while Shell nibbled gently into positive territory by the close of trading last night.