Demands for public ownership of energy after CEO awarded £3.7m bonus
Calls for energy to be brought into public ownership are growing after news that an energy firm boss is being awarded an eye watering bonus. Chris O’Shea, the CEO of British gas owner Centrica is being given a staggering £3.7 million bonus.
Centrica reported record profits of £3.3 billion in 2022 – more than in the four prior years combined. The firm said it made £72 million in operating profits at the British Gas retail division in 2022.
Alongside many firms in the energy sector, Centrica has secured astonishing profits as a result of the massive spike in oil and gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
These profits – and O’Shea’s bonus – have been reported at a time when inflation remains at the highest level for a generation and millions of people are struggling to pay their energy bills. According to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, average energy bills have more than doubled since the winter of 2020/21, with increases still to come on 1 April 2023. Official government statistics estimated that 13.4 per cent of households were in fuel poverty in 2022.
Anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It have slammed the decision to hand O’Shea a mega-bonus. The group’s director Cat Hobbs told Bright Green: “This beggars belief. Record profits and bumper bonuses for British Gas go to show that a privileged few are profiting while the rest of us are penny-pinching.
“The government has the power to intervene by bringing our energy into public hands. In countries like France and Norway, energy is publicly owned so the government can intervene to prevent bills skyrocketing.
“Instead, we’re not only seeing a waste of money on shareholder profits and bonuses, but a waste of opportunity to drive forward the green transition.”
A board member at Centrica has said of O’Shea’s bonus: “Like most public companies we hire our senior executives on employment contracts that have a significant proportion of pay which is performance-related.”
In July 2022, the Trades Union Congress estimated that taking the big five energy companies into public ownership would cost £2.85 billion.
Earlier this year Centrica and British Gas were embroiled in a scandal after it was discovered that companies working on their behalf had been forcefully installing prepayment meters in the homes of vulnerable people and had even broken into homes to do so. British Gas has since said it has suspended the use of court warrants to force the installation of prepayment meters.
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