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Business Comment

Jim Armitage: Neat wriggle, and megaprofits for megawatts can continue

Outlook Didn't they do well? Energy companies have long loathed the green levies, mostly put on them by the previous government.

Now, by putting up their prices by 10 per cent or so just as the Treasury is working on the December mini-budget, the Big Six have given the Government cover to roll back green energy plans. This it will now do.

Signals to this effect from Westminster have been given backing by the likes of Centrica, which yesterday pledged to reduce price rises if the relaxation on the green measures goes through as trailed.

The result: by Christmas, the Big Six will be allowed to keep making megaprofits for their megawatts (£354m in just six months from SSE alone yesterday) without bearing the cost of bringing British homes up to other European countries' standards on energy efficiency. The Government can trumpet having found a liberal solution to rising energy bills, defusing Ed Miliband's potential bunkerbuster of a populist (socialist) price cap.

Will the Treasury have the nerve to transfer in full the new shortfall in its green spending plans to direct taxation? Doubtful. That pre-election photocall of David Cameron and his Arctic huskies in 2009 has never seemed more absurd.