Energy bills blame game heats up

Energy consumers' anger at rising prices should be directed towards the government, one of Britain's biggest suppliers has suggested.

npower, one of the big six energy suppliers in the UK, is mounting a major public relations offensive to try and correct the notion it is the energy companies who are to blame for rising prices.

"For a long time, blame has shifted back and forth from energy suppliers to government, each pointing the finger at the other for rising costs," chief executive Paul Massara said.

"This blame game hasn't helped people – if anything, they don't know who or what to believe. It's led to confusion, mistrust, and misinformation, and that's something we urgently need to address."

Forty per cent of people believe supplier profits are usually around 40%, the company's research suggests. Massara said the real number is "more like five per cent" – and appears to have concluded the suppliers are losing the blame game as a result.

"This isn't about shifting responsibility – energy suppliers need to play a big part in communicating this message and supporting customers," he insisted.

"We've got to remove confusion and complexity out of energy, which is why we're developing simpler bills and tariffs, and offering energy efficiency support and advice to all of our customers.

"But the public need to hear a clear and consistent message across the board if we’ve got any chance at all of helping them to tackle rising costs."

Energy bills are forecast by npower to rise to £1,487 by 2020, an increase of £240 even before inflation is taken into account.

It says the government's heavy investment in renewable energy infrastructure and ministers' drive to improve energy efficiency are the biggest factors behind the increase.

"We're absolutely focused on delivering cheaper bills," energy minister Greg Barker told the Today programme.

He accused npower of having "form" on pessimistic assessments, citing its prediction of £3 billion for the Ecohomes programme when this is now set to be nearer £1.3 billion.

And he argued the government's investment programme would end up reducing bills – but only in the longer term.

"We're building the equivalent of eight Crossrails between now and 2020, or 20 Olympic stadiums," he added.

"It does come at a cost, but we're doing it in a way that in the long-term is going to reduce bills – or at least make them cheaper than they would have been.

"We're putting in place the building blocks to deliver a cleaner, more good value energy sector by the 2020s."