One of the UK’s largest energy suppliers has warned that if the government doesn’t act, up to 40% of its customers will be living in fuel poverty by October
Boris Johnson must step in to prevent more people falling into fuel poverty, an energy chief warns.
E.ON UK boss Michael Lewis said one in eight customers had payment difficulties.
He added: “We need more intervention. People are on the fringes, it’s only going to get worse.”
Calls for an unexpected tax on oil and gas giants grew louder as energy companies urged ministers to get “the broadest of shoulders” to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has so far resisted pleas for a one-off levy on the huge profits of oil and gas companies that benefit from soaring gas and oil prices, as households already hit by soaring fuel bills face further price hikes in the autumn are.
But E.ON UK boss Michael Lewis said urgent action was needed as one in eight customers was already struggling to pay bills, even in warmer weather.
If temperatures drop and the new energy price cap comes into effect in October, heating bills could rise to as much as 40% of the income of the worst-off households.
Mr Lewis said: “Frankly, some people are on the fringes. They just can’t pay, and that will only get worse when prices start to rise again in October.
“We see a significant number of people in energy poverty – meaning they spend more than 10% of their disposable income on energy. That has increased to around 20%.
“In October, our model suggests it could rise to 40% if the government doesn’t intervene in some way. We need more interventions in October and it has to be very extensive.”
Mr Lewis declined to join calls for a windfall tax on fuel giants, urging ministers only to tax those who could best afford it.
He told BBC1 on Sunday morning: ‘The most important thing is that the government intervene; It’s up to them to decide how to fund it.
“All I would say is that as they tackle this challenge, it’s important that they tax those with the broadest shoulders.”
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves MP said: “These comments underscore how severe the cost of living crisis is.
“The government must act now by introducing a windfall tax on oil and gas producer profits to bring down bills.”
Shell reported a record £7.3 billion in profit for the first three months of this year, while BP brought in £5 billion, its highest in a decade.
The energy price cap, which limits how much consumers pay for their bills, rose 54% in April.
The average household now pays £1,971 a year – and that could top £3,000 if the cap is raised again this autumn.
Mr Lewis claimed energy suppliers are limited in the help they can give customers as gas and electricity prices are set by regulator Ofgem.
Utilities in general have made much less profit than oil and gas companies due to higher wholesale costs.
But some still made huge profits from E.ON, one of the Big Six UK suppliers, taking in more than £6billion last year.
British Gas owner Centrica more than doubled its profits last year to almost £1 billion, with the majority coming from its energy production arm.
British Gas’s utility division profits also rose 44% to £188m.
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the cabinet is considering “all options” but Insiders No. 10 believe a windfall tax would be “unconservative”.
Some fear this could deter future investment.
But BP and Shell are among those who have said that wouldn’t stop them from investing in the UK.
The Treasury is believed to be considering expanding the Warm Homes Discount scheme and giving a one-off payment of £140 to those who receive certain benefits.
It could extend this to all prepaid meters.
Some Tory MPs have urged the government to increase universal credit.
The government is not expected to announce new support for struggling households before next month’s anniversary weekend, insiders believe.
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A source said: “Nothing is imminent. It’s important, but of course it has to be done right.”
It comes amid claims that schools in England could be paying an estimated £1billion a year in energy bills, taking money away from education.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/eon-energy-boss-says-prices-27034928 E.On Energy Chief Says 'Prices Are Too High' as PM Faces Increasing Pressure to Help