Centrica CEO says government policies should be funded by general taxation

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Britain’s biggest supplier of energy to homes has called for the costs of funding government policies such as smart metering to be met via general taxation rather than being passed on to consumers via their energy bills.

Iain Conn, the chief executive of Centrica, said such a move would avoid people on low incomes being “disproportionately impacted” by policies such as funding the roll-out of smart meters, which are designed to help households better monitor their energy usage.

It could also improve transparency around energy bills, the group suggested.

Large suppliers claim energy bills have recently been forced up by costs outside of their control, such as paying for government policies. These also include subsidising low-carbon forms of power generation.

Speaking at Centrica’s AGM in London, Mr Conn insisted these factors — as well as rising wholesale prices — have been behind recent price rises “rather than the profiteering of suppliers”.

Centrica has also suggested that customers on standard tariffs, which affect two-thirds of households and roll over, should be forced to actively renew their energy contracts. It has suggested this as an alternative to a cap on standard rates, which will be unveiled in the Conservative party manifesto.

The Tories have pledged a cap as ministers are not persuaded that rates of people switching supplier are sufficiently high.

“If the government really wants engagement, they could end evergreen contracts,” Mr Conn said.

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