THE owners of British Gas want the PM to scrap unfair green taxes to cut rocketing bills by £170 overnight.
Chris O’Shea, chief exec of Centrica, also insists the UK’s biggest energy supplier does not want the taxpayer bailout sought by other providers crippled by the soaring wholesale costs.
Ministers are scrambling for ways to ease the impact of big rises in the spring.
More crisis talks with sector chiefs are scheduled for next week.
Mr O’Shea warns gas users face a £700 rise in April and another £200 increase in October as the Energy Price Cap is ramped up.
But Britain’s top energy boss says that, as well as scrapping green taxes, the pain can be eased if the PM U-turns on his opposition to a VAT cut on bills.
That would save another £100 a year on average.
And Mr O’Shea, in an article for The Sun, urges Boris Johnson to go even further by “stripping environmental and social levies out of energy bills, funding green programmes via general taxation instead”.
His intervention comes after days of talks between energy firms and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
Smaller firms — such as Eon, EDF, Shell, Octopus Energy and OVO — want Whitehall to set up a publicly funded “stabilisation fund” to let them even out price hikes over five years.
An industry source said: “Rather than bills going up £600 in one year, support from Treasury would allow that pain to spread to deal with this unusual situation.”
Ministers are open to the idea but want cheap finance from banks to fund such a scheme rather than stinging the taxpayer directly.
While British Gas has rejected the call for the public to pay, sources at other firms have accused the market leaders of trying to strangle support for their smaller rivals.
Rather than bills going up £600 in one year, support from Treasury would allow that pain to spread to deal with this unusual situation.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak hinted last night at further backing coming, insisting he was in listening mode.
He said: “I understand people’s concern about energy bills.
“So there is support there for people.
“But we are always listening, making sure the policy we have got will support people in the way we want it to.
“That is what our track record over the last year or two shows.”
Help strugglers, not firms
HOUSEHOLDS up and down the country are understandably worried about the prospect of big increases in their energy bills from April.
Customers could very well see Ofgem agree a £700-a-year increase in the Energy Price Cap, possibly followed by another £200 in October.
Energy suppliers have to pass on higher wholesale costs to survive.
But at British Gas we are working hard with the Government to find a way to protect families from the full force of the price hikes.
This doesn’t mean that we are looking for a bailout.
There are reports that some energy companies want a £20billion handout to keep household bills down.
Not British Gas. We haven’t asked for a bailout, we don’t want a bailout and we oppose any bailouts.
Our advice to the Government is to try to help those customers who are already struggling to make ends meet, not to worry about helping energy companies’ balance sheets.
Ultimately, any decision has to be taken by ministers — and there is a range of options which can be temporary or permanent.
Suspending VAT on energy bills could shave £100 off the typical bill.
A more targeted option would be to support those who need help the most by making a contribution to their energy bill through a scheme administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Another way forward would be to strip the environmental and social levies out of energy bills and then funding “green” programmes through general taxation instead.
Overnight, this would reduce annual bills by £170.
It would also be fairer.
Funding environmental costs through the bill means every customer pays the same amount, regardless of how rich or poor they are.
Whatever the Government decides, we have to use this moment to look longer-term to try to ensure the industry isn’t in this position again.
As a responsible supplier, we have worked hard to “hedge”, to buy gas and electricity in advance to protect our customers from the steepest increases.
Everything we do is to reduce the cost for our customers as much as we can.
We have to think about protecting customers now — and into the future.
They must be the priority.