29 Oct 2013

MPs and energy bosses: no power surge, little illumination

What did we learn from the energy bosses’ session in front of  MPs on the energy and climate change committee? We heard that the big six energy companies are thrilled with David Cameron’s suggestion last week that he wants to roll back the government-imposed on energy bills.

He’ll be pleased to hear them guaranteeing that the savings would be passed on, pound for pound, and quickly. He might be less pleased to hear them claiming it was all their idea in the first place.  The big six couldn’t wait to steer the conversation in the direction of the levy-lifting.

One boss referred to the levies being “smeared” across everyone’s bills and another one challenged a Labour MP that he should oppose them because they were like the poll tax which he’d probably opposed and not progressive.


Labour MP Albert Owen pointed out that some of these self-same regulatory dragons that David Cameron was promising  to slay were ones he’d introduced himself as recently as April.

There were tantalising moments in the questioning which didn’t really come to much.  MPs asked why the energy companies insist that their generator/wholesale and retail sides of the business are very properly separate and yet like to combine them when they’re setting dividends.

The bosses said they didn’t hide profits when buying off their generator wings but if they were forced to split off the businesses it would raise their hedging risks.

We learnt that if you want to embarrass witnesses you should interview them jointly with their upstart, smaller rivals. The boss from Ovo cheeked his bigger energy cousins for remorseless “filibustering” of accounts and said he didn’t know how their wholesale energy costs got so high.

Tonight, the Energy and Business Minister Michael Fallon was explicit about how lifting green levies might be paid for.

He said: ” We are looking at the green levies that are charged at the moment and it’s perfectly possible to move some of them over to general taxation…that would mean an increase in taxation…but it’s also possible to look at the period over which the levy is charged and spread the burden more fairly. We’re looking at that at the moment…”

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