Jeremy Hunt bails out the energy suppliers again

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is u-turning on his plan to hike energy prices again. But he’s not doing it out of the kindness of his heart – it’s to protect a failing market.

We’ll still see our bills rise on 1 April, fossil fuel giants will continue making billions in profits and energy suppliers are getting bailed out by the government again.

Monday 6 March 2023

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to cancel the 1 April energy price hike

In the Budget next week, Hunt is set to announce that the Energy Price Guarantee will remain at £2,500, rather than rising to £3,000 from next month.

It’s a necessary step. With millions of us unable to keep up with already extortionate gas and electricity prices, any further price rise must be avoided. But it doesn’t mean the government has suddenly started acting in our interests.

Our bills will still go up from 1 April as the Energy Bills Support Scheme, which cut £400 from our bills, ends.

Fossil fuel giants will continue making killer profits. BP reported record annual profits of £23 billion for 2022. Shell reported its highest profits in 115 years, doubling the previous year’s total to £32 billion. Britain’s biggest gas supplier, Equinor, made £62 billion. To put these obscene amounts in perspective, it would take the average worker 5,147 years to make what Equinor made in just one day.

And now the government is bailing out energy suppliers yet again.

This is why the threat of our mass non-payment strike forced the government to introduce the Energy Price Guarantee in the first place, committing billions in spending to limit price rises.

But, as we headed into winter, Jeremy Hunt u-turned on the Price Guarantee by announcing the limit it placed on average bills would rise to £3,000 on 1 April. We called for mass non-payment in response – but it was clear this was already happening.

At least 3 million people went into winter behind on their bills. Many millions more spent the last few months falling further and further into debt with their energy supplier. Mass non-payment was more a mass default.

This mass default is why Hunt has u-turned yet again.

With millions of people being pushed into debt, energy suppliers are currently owed an enormous £2.5 billion.

It’s simple: higher prices means more debt. And suppliers know this huge level of consumer debt could have ‘disastrous’ consequences for the industry – they’ve said they won’t be able to claw back up to 80% of what’s owed. Some suppliers, such as Shell Energy, are even considering leaving the market because it’s no longer profitable.

This is why they pressured the government not to increase prices again. Another increase in prices would further increase the pressure on an industry straining under the weight of consumer debt. Jeremy Hunt acted to bail out this failed industry, not to protect consumers.

But this is where our power lies.

We forced the government to introduce the Energy Price Guarantee by posing a threat to energy suppliers’ bottom lines. Now, the 1 April price rise will be cancelled to protect their bottom lines from consumer debt rising even further. If we can build our leverage over their finances again, we can keep forcing the government to act.

So it’s time for our campaign to move into the next phase.

Alongside our campaign of mass non-payment, we’re making plans to target another weakness in the market: energy suppliers hiking our direct debits so they now hold billions in consumer credit as an interest-free loan. Latest estimates put this figure at £9 billion of our cash sitting in their bank accounts.

We need to make them think twice about racking up billions in credit to protect their failing business model while so many of us struggle to pay our bills.

We’re making plans for the next phase of the Don’t Pay campaign. Want to get involved or keep up to date? Make sure you’re on our mailing list: