Since we shut down their head office on Monday, British Gas owner Centrica have replied to the thousands of people who emailed them about their overreliance on gas, their lack of investment in renewables and their failure to bring energy bills under control. But whilst they talk a good game, their spin fails to address the real issues.
Firstly, they claimed evidence from a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance that they have installed less renewable energy than any of the other big six energy companies was misleading. This is simply wrong. The report looked at every major renewable energy project the big utilities built since 2006 and British Gas had built the least. No excuses.
The report was written by one of the foremost energy consultancies in the world, it would be interesting to know what they had to say about Centrica’s attacks on their research.
Centrica claimed that going back to 2008 the rate of increase in energy bills has only been 2-3% per year. Again, this is misleading. In the last year, expensive, imported gas has pushed up the cost far more sharply. Figures from energy regulator Ofgem show the cost of heat and electricity has risen by 12.8% from March 2011 to March 2012. The mild winter cushioned some British Gas customer’s from the impact this winter, but boss Sam Laidlaw admits gas prices are set to keep rising.
They claimed to have "re-invested £1.50 for every £1 in profit". This is a fudge of the numbers. What they mean is that they managed to raise and invest £1.50 for every £1 in profit. Their shareholders would be rather annoyed if they were re-investing more profit than they were making. As it stands, they pay out 74% of their profits to shareholders, more than any of the other “big six” energy companies.
Centrica are dodging and weaving their way out of accepting the simple truth; that their reliance on expensive and imported gas is keeping households tied to volatile prices.
The upcoming Energy Bill will decide the future of energy generation for the UK. That future must be clean, affordable energy to stabilise bills and tackle climate change. As the UK’s largest domestic supplier of energy, Centrica must publicly declare support for prioritising renewable energy in the Bill and reduce our reliance on expensive, imported gas.
Far from taking part in an honest discussion, Centrica have dodged our central ask to champion a clean energy future that puts renewables and efficiency at its heart and brings bills under control.