Greed or need?

British Gas owner Centrica and Shell see profits soar as bills rise. 

Profit for the six months ending in June 2023 for British Gas owner Centrica rose to around £1.34bn from £262m a year earlier. The rise in profits came from the company’s nuclear and oil and gas business, rather than from the British Gas energy supply business which performed much worse. The average annual British Gas profit has been £584m in recent years.

Profit increase down to Ofgem ‘tweak’

However, the profit boom is surprisingly down to a ‘tweak’ to the regulator Ofgem’s energy price cap that allows the supplier to recover elements of the costs of supplying its 10 million customers during the energy crisis. 

The supplier’s current profit highs are likely to upset consumer groups that have campaigned against the supplier’s treatment of vulnerable energy customers as record energy market prices forced millions into fuel poverty. Some have called the profit making ‘legalised robbery’, and demanded to bring energy into public ownership.

Dividend plans

Centrica plans to raise its interim dividend by around a third but remarks that its underlying profitability will ease significantly in the second half of the year. Energy firms saw their profit margins hit last year when wholesale prices surged in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Wholesale prices also jumped as th UK emerged from the dark cloud Covid as markets undicated that the UK was ill prepared for the enconomic recovery. Brexit blues didn’t help either.

The energy price cap remains £1,000 above its pre-pandemic average, despite oil and natural gas costs easing significantly. It is predicted by industry ‘experts’ to remain around the £2,000 a year average for the coming winter months, maintaining excessive pressure on household budgets.

Some ‘windfall’ tax recovery, over the years will apparently go back to ‘society’, British Gas says.

Centrica chief executive reportedly said that a lot of the firm’s profits were ‘going back into society’.

I know it’s difficult to see the word profits, or dividends, or similar words when people are having a tough time. I’m very conscious of this,’ he reportedly said.


‘Bear in mind, over the next couple of years we are expecting to pay a windfall tax of ‘probably‘ well over £600m on our UK gas business off the back of the profits that we’re seeing, so a lot of this is going back into society.’

A contentious thought

A business needs to make profits otherwise there is no business. It exits to make a profit and to supply a service or product – but it is about how that business makes its profit, isn’t it?

Token windfall tax temporarily slapped on by the UK government is only payable on UK profits. Oil and gas recovery companies will only pay a tax windfall on UK related profits not on overseas returns!

Profits from fossil fuel recovery invested in greener energy for the future – that’s a topic for another article.

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