The boss of one of the UK’s biggest energy suppliers has said that support for households facing spiralling energy costs should be targeted at those most in need.
ScottishPower’s chief executive, Keith Anderson, said the Government has several options on the table for how to deal with the rise of more than 50% in energy bills that some experts predict in April.
“There is merit in the Government looking at bringing in something that is quite targeted to help the most vulnerable in society,” he told the PA news agency.
“I think the more you can target that support at those people, the better, and the more affordable it becomes and the more sensible it becomes.”
Rapidly rising gas prices have pushed up the price of the energy that suppliers pump to homes across the UK in recent months.
So far those price increases have generally not been passed on to households, but they will be in April when the price cap is revised.
The Government is reportedly considering several options for how to help customers get through this period.
They could include the expansion of very targeted measures such as the warm homes discount.
However, ministers are also considering whether to scrap a 5% VAT charge on energy bills. This is not targeted as it would save all households a similar amount of money.
The same goes for proposals to cut green and social levies from energy bills.
“As well as an energy issue and a consumer issue, it is an economic issue for the UK, it is a business issue for the UK as well. So the Government needs to think about the options open to it and the levers open to it,” Mr Anderson said.
“Whatever the answer is and whatever the solution is, that is not a bailout of energy companies.
“That’s not the issue, this is about whether you want to help customers, and which group of customers you want to help and how you help the most vulnerable people in society deal with what’s going to happen.”
He declined to comment on any specific plans and rumours about what the Government might do.
The new energy price cap will be announced on February 7.
On Monday, Downing Street said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is talking to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng over what to do about energy bills.
Asked what action was being taken and whether a VAT cut on bills was being considered, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Discussions are still ongoing.”
The spokesman said: “The Prime Minister continues to speak to the Chancellor, to the Business Secretary and both those two ministers are having further discussions about what the appropriate response is to abating these cost-of-living challenges that we are seeing.
“Obviously, we do have things like the energy price cap continuing to protect 15 million households from high global gas prices, alongside further support targeted to the most vulnerable.”