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Cost of Living: Scottish Power boss warns Sunak things are going to get ‘truly horrific’

Chancellor urged to be more radical as millions face fuel poverty this winter

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 19 April 2022 18:30 BST
Pensioner 'rides the bus to stay warm' amid energy crisis

The UK’s energy price crisis will become “truly horrific” with as many as 40 per cent of people being pushed into fuel poverty unless Rishi Sunak takes urgent action, the boss of one of Britain’s biggest suppliers has warned.

Scottish Power chief executive Keith Anderson said the chancellor must act urgently and be “more radical” to limit the impact of rising gas and electricity prices.

Mr Anderson told MPs that Scottish Power had been inundated with 8,000 calls from customers worried that they would not be able to afford to power their homes.

It came as Hayden Wood, the boss of Bulb, was told it was “staggering” that he continued to receive a £250,000-a-year salary, underwritten by taxpayers, after the energy supplier collapsed last year.

Mr Wood said he had been working “very hard” to minimise the cost to taxpayers of Bulb’s failure.

Scottish Power’s Mr Anderson said he was “hugely concerned for people” facing large bill increases. “There are so many people who are going to really, really struggle.”

“A lot of people for the first time are facing this issue, they’ve never been in this position before,” he added.

The energy boss said his biggest concern was what would happen in October, when the price cap is set to jump again, taking the average bill close to £3,000 a year.

While the cap has already risen 54 per cent this month, consumers are partially cushioned from the impact by warmer temperatures, which mean lower energy bills.

“Come October, things are going to get horrific, truly horrific,” Mr Anderson told MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee.

“I honestly believe the size and scale of this is well beyond what I can deal with, what this industry can deal with. We need a massive shift, a significant shift in the government approach towards this."

Mr Anderson called for a deficit fund and a “social tariff” that would replace the heavily criticised energy price cap.

Under the plan, vulnerable households and customers on lower incomes would receive a discount of up to £1,000 a year on their bills.

The money would be repaid by energy customers and taxpayers over a 10-year period.

E.On UK chief executive Michael Lewis also backed a social tariff, but said more immediate measures, such as a reduction in VAT, were required.

He warned that between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of people in Britain might go into fuel poverty from October when the price cap is likely to rise significantly again.

Current government measures have widely been seen as inadequate. The chancellor declined to offer further support for struggling families in his latest tax and spending announcement.

Mr Sunak chose to stick with previously announced rebates on council tax bills and a £200 discount on retail energy bills that will be repaid through a levy over the next five years. The two schemes will only cover a fraction of the increases that energy customers face.

With around a third of households expected to be struggling to afford adequate heating and electricity this winter, pressure is mounting on the government to do more.

Mr Anderson urged ministers to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, which he said was being held back by inadequate investment and cumbersome planning systems that make it slower to build new capacity in the UK than in many other countries.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas, giving renewed impetus to the drive towards net-zero emissions.

Soaring prices have helped to force more than two dozen suppliers out of business in the past 12 months. The boss of British Gas owner Centrica warned MPs that more suppliers would go under next year.

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