How a PM cup of tea could cost you MORE under 'peak time' energy plans

How a cuppa could be COSTLIER in the evening: Fears Uber style ‘surge pricing’ on energy bills could lead to expensive peak times on everyday power usage

  • Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus Energy have announced their backing for  radical new ‘time-of-use’ tariffs
  • Tariffs will see households charged more to use energy at ‘peak’ times – like weekday and weekend evenings
  • Suppliers say tariffs – which are optional – will benefit electric car users and those working off-peak hours 
  • But experts warn that they could push people to change their life-styles in order to push down energy costs
  • Meanwhile, analysis shows how under such tariffs a cup of tea could cost more in evening than during the day

New Uber-style ‘surge pricing’ tariffs are to be offered to millions of UK households as part of a massive overhaul of the country’s power market – in a move which means Britons could pay more for a cup of tea depending on when they boil the kettle.

The so-called ‘time-of-use’ tariffs will see households charged more to use electricity at ‘peak’ times – such as weekday and weekend evenings. 

Energy firms however say customers will benefit by paying less at off-peak times – such as early mornings or the middle of the night.

Such tariffs have been compared the much-maligned ‘surge pricing’ system run by ride-hailing app Uber – which allows significant price spikes during periods of high demand.

Meanwhile analysis by MailOnline shows that, under ‘time-of-use’ tariffs, boiling a kettle for a cup of tea could cost Britons a penny more in the evening than it does in the morning due to the rise in electricity prices.

And it has led to some experts warning that the tariffs, which at this point are entirely optional for customers, could prompt consumers into determentaly adapting their life-styles in order to save money.

It comes as the Government recently announced plans to up the cap on energy bills by more than 50 per cent in April amid a huge spike in wholesale gas prices.

Britons also face a cost of living crisis with food prices on the rise and National Insurance contributions set to increase later this year.

On Wednesday, major energy firms Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus Energy – who collectively supply 11million British households announced their backing for the radical new tariffs.

New Uber-style ‘surge pricing’ tariffs are to be offered to millions of UK households as part of a massive overhaul of the country’s power market – in a move which means Britons could pay more for a cup of tea depending on when they boil the kettle

A graphic showing how electricity prices changed throughout the day on Octopus Energy’s Agile tariff. The figure on the left is pence per kiloWatt hour (kWh) and the bottom shows the time of day. The figures are a 12 month average price for a home in London. The blue line represents the 2020/2021 energy price cap – the level of which energy prices are capped to customers on standard variable rates

It comes as the Government recently announced plans to up the cap on energy bills by more than 50 per cent in April amid a huge spike in wholesale gas prices. Pictured: A graphic showing how Octopus Energy’s Agile Pricing has increased between 2020 and 2020 due to the wholesale gas price increase

One of the firms, Octopus Energy, already runs its own ‘time-of-use’ tariff called ‘Agility’. It says the pricing system benefits electric vehicle owners and those who heat their homes with storage heaters


Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus Energy have agreed to overhaul the energy market that could see consumers charged more under ‘surge pricing’ tariffs

One of the firms, Octopus Energy, already runs its own ‘time-of-use’ tariff called ‘Agility’. It says the pricing system benefits electric vehicle owners and those who heat their homes with storage heaters.

The firm also boasts the tariff benefits ‘anyone who can shift their electricity use outside of peak times’ – such as those who work unsociable hours.

How a cup of tea could end up costing Britons MORE depending on when you boil the kettle 

Data from Octopus’ Agility tariff, seen by MailOnline shows how the average cost of energy, measured in pence per kilowatt hours (kWh), differs throughout the day.

The data, which is an average across the last 12 months in London, shows how customers on the tariff were charged around 20p per kWh for using electricity at midnight.

But by 8am this had risen to 25p per kWh, before dipping back to around 22p per kWh between 3pm and 4pm – a time when many parents leave home to pick their children up from school.  

The data then shows how prices typically spiked to 32p per kWh around 5pm, when people return home from work, before dropping again around 10pm.

Though the figures reflect how such tariffs work in theory, the Government’s energy cap for units of electricity this winter was 20.8p per kWh.

This means, using this average data, consumers would have paid almost exactly the same throughout all period of the day because the unit price was above the cap at most points. The cap is set to rise in April to 28.34p per kWh. 

Using this data as guidance of how energy prices fluctuate for consumers on ‘time-of-use’ it shows in theory how energy prices change throughout the day. And it can also show how, in theory, the cost of energy for everyday tasks can fluctuate throughout the day too.  

For example, boiling a half-full 3kW 1litre kettle in the UK uses, on average, uses around 0.113kWh of energy – equivalent to around 2p when boiled at midnight.

But, if on a time-of-use tariff, by 8am the price of boiling that same kettle could cost around 2.5p. And by 5pm it could cost more than 3p. 

 

Data seen by MailOnline shows how, on the Octopus Agile tariff, the average cost of energy, measured in pence per kilowatt hours (kWh), differs throughout the day.

The data, which is an average across the last 12 months in London, shows how customers on the tariff were charged around 20p per kWh for using electricity at midnight.

But by 8am this had risen to 25p per kWh, before dipping back to around 22p per kWh between 3pm and 4pm – a time when many parents leave home to pick their children up from school.  

The data then shows how prices typically spiked to 32p per kWh around 5pm, when people return home from work, before dropping again around 10pm.

The Government’s energy cap for units of electricity for those on standard variable tariffs this winter was 20.8p per kWh. The cap is set to rise in April to 28.34p per kWh. Octopus Energy say the tariff costs reflect the huge increase in wholesale gas prices from September last year onwards.

Using this data as guidance of how energy prices fluctuate for consumers on ‘time-of-use’ it shows in theory how energy prices change throughout the day. And it can also show how, in theory, the cost of energy for everyday tasks can fluctuate throughout the day too.  

For example, boiling a typical half-full 1-litre kettle in the UK uses around 0.113kWh of energy – equivalent to around 2p when boiled at midnight.

But, if on a time-of-use tariff, by 8am the price of boiling that same kettle could cost around 2.5p. And by 5pm it could cost more than 3p. 

One energy expert told MailOnline that such tariffs could put people off doing tasks during the day if they fear it will cost them more.

Andrew Long, CEO of Switchcraft, said: ‘An energy retailers job is to manage the difference between wholesale and retail prices. But these tariffs put the responsibility on to the average person.

‘Juggling supply and demand throughout the day should be managed by the energy supplier so that people do not have to worry about it. It is unfair for suppliers to try and push that on to customers.’

Mr Long also said that with a push towards renewable energy, which relies on external factors such as wind and wave strength, that power companies were increasingly having to manage unpredictable variations in energy supply. He said time-of-use tariffs were a way of managing this.

But he added: ‘This shouldn’t be pushed on to the public. If technology like demand side response can help, that’s great, but we shouldn’t all have to constantly be checking prices to see if we can afford to enjoy a cup of tea.’

Meanwhile, energy expert Lynsey Jones, who worked for British Gas for 20 years before setting up consultancy business Quote4Energy Ltd, added: ‘I think it will 100 per cent drive people into changing their behaviour, which is no bad thing but I think smart meters is driving this anyway. 

‘I don’t feel that consumers understand how their bills are made up enough for them to then put into practice trying to avoid ‘peak’ periods unless Ofgem force the suppliers to make it really simple.’

The Chancellor announced new help in the Commons minutes after it was revealed the energy price cap is going up 54 per cent for millions of people in April, meaning typical costs will rise £693 to £1,971. Pictured: The average gas price per kilowatt hour in Great Britain

Under the plans agreed by Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus Energy customers would be charged depending on the time of the usage. 

Smart meters will automatically update firms every 30 minutes on each household’s individual energy usage.

This is unlike the tariffs most Britons are currently on, which charge a flat rate for energy regardless of the time of day. 

So what exactly are ‘time-of-use’ energy tariffs? 

Time-of-use energy tariffs have been around in different formats for decades – and perhaps are best known to most Britons in the form of the Economy 7 Meter.

Known as E7s and usually found in homes that use electricity for heating and hot water, rather than gas, they charge users two different rates for two different depending on when they are used.

The E7 meters have to rates, a day rate, for energy used in the day, and a night rate, for the seven hours of off-peak electricity rates at night – usually 10pm to 5am.

However new time-of-use energy tariffs are now being pushed by three major energy firms, Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus Energy.

They involve the use of Smart Meters, which will automatically update firms every 30 minutes on each household’s individual energy usage.

Octopus currently runs a time-of-use tariff called Agile, which charges cheaper rates at off-peak hours than it does during peak times.

But unlike the E7s, the new meters are designed to accommodate for actual demand, rather than just anticipated peak and off peak times – though in general off-peak will be between 10pm and 5am.

Off-peak prices originally came about in the days of coal-fired power stations, because the power stations couldn’t be easily shut down overnight, so people were encouraged to use the excess power being generated.

But with the push to renewable energy a new problem has emerged – varying levels of energy generation.

That’s because wind and wave strengths change, resulting in higher of lower outputs.

Experts say time-of-use tariffs could help to mitigate the varying output by changing people’s energy habits.

Brian Horne, senior insight & analytics consultant of the Energy Saving Trust, told MailOnline: ‘Households on smart time of use tariffs can take advantage of times when there is a lot of cheap renewable power, such as wind or solar on the grid. 

‘This is happening because a fully integrated and flexible electricity system is the cheapest and most efficient way to incorporate low cost renewable energy generation into the system. 

‘Therefore we, can all benefit from the cost saving, as well as the environmental benefits that renewable generation offers.’

Under Octopus Energy’s Agile and Plunge Pricing tariffs, the later of which is in beta-testing with customers, energy users can be told when prices drop and can have messages sent to their smart meter to inform them of off-peak periods.

Other firms are also trying pioneering strategies, such as Green Energy, which has a Tide tariff.

Under this tariff, power used between midnight and 7am is charged at a much lower rate, and users can lower their bills further by avoiding using electricity between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays.

Energy firms say the tariffs can benefit customers, particularly those who work night shifts or are awake during traditional off-peak hours.

However experts warn that the use of off-peak and smart meters could lead to ‘surge’ style pricing, where energy firms pump up the price at times when power output is lower and demand is high.

Regardless, energy firms are capped at what they can charge per unit of electricity.  

From 2025, regulator Ofgem plans to make half-hourly updates the default option for millions of smart meters rather than something households must opt in to. The regulator will receive powers to enact the change in May.

Octopus Energy insit the plans will be ‘extremely good for consumers’ while energy regulator Ofgem says surge pricing will ultimately lead to savings for customers as more people take advantage of bargain prices during less busy hours.

Meanwhile Scottish Power told The Telegraph, who first revealed the plans for the time-of-use tariffs, that the half-hourly updates would give a ‘highly accurate profile of local electricity demand as the country moves towards an all-electric future through net zero’.

‘This will allow network companies to get more out of existing grid infrastructure and target upgrades to the grid for increased demand more efficiently,’ the spokesperson added.

EDF said: ‘Half-hourly market settlement will play a key part in our transition towards a net zero future, as well as benefiting customers.

‘We already have a number of simple Time of Use tariffs available, which enable customers to enjoy lower prices at night-time, when energy is less in demand and therefore cheaper, including a tariff designed to help EV charging at a cheaper rate.’  

Meanwhile, Brian Horne, senior insight & analytics consultant of the Energy Saving Trust, told MailOnline insisted that while time-of-use tariffs could benefit consumers and ultimately be better for the environment.

He also said that while time of use tariffs were available, that there were ‘no plans’ to bring in ‘surge pricing’.  

Mr Horne said: ‘As a part of the National Grid trial, updates to suppliers as part of “settlement” enable households with smart meters to demonstrate lower use on a half hourly period and rewards them if they have lowered demand. 

‘This means that households on smart time of use tariffs can take advantage of times when there is a lot of cheap renewable power, such as wind or solar on the grid. 

‘This is happening because a fully integrated and flexible electricity system is the cheapest and most efficient way to incorporate low cost renewable energy generation into the system. 

‘Therefore we, can all benefit from the cost saving, as well as the environmental benefits that renewable generation offers.

“All time of use tariffs offer people the opportunity to save money if their electricity use follows a different pattern to the average, or if they are able to change when they use electricity. 

‘If people are unable to modify their pattern of use enough to benefit from a time of use tariff, then they should not switch to one – and this won’t ever be a requirement.’

It comes as watchdogs earlier this week warned of a new surge in energy bills – possibly another £700 a year – if gas supplies are hit by a Russia invasion of Ukraine.

The regulator, Ofgem, told MPs yesterday that current forecasts suggest another increase is likely to come into effect before next winter.

The annual bill for a typical household is due to go up from £1,277 to £1,971 from April 1, but some industry analysts are predicting it will go up again to £2,300 from October 1.

In fact, the rise could be substantially higher if Russia invades Ukraine, which would hit gas supplies to Europe and drive up global prices.

Ofgem’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, said wholesale gas prices are volatile and it is impossible to make any firm predictions.

But, he said: ‘When you look at the forward prices right now, there is upward pressure in prices still, so you may see a rise in October.

‘It is really hard to say what the price cap will be if Russia invades Ukraine, but…you would see significant rises again in the price that people pay.’

He added: ‘We are not experts in geo-politics but we expect that if Russia invades Ukraine – there is a sanctions regime and that Russia limits gas supplies to Europe.

‘That would drive high price rises and that would ultimately feed through to customers.’

He did not put a figure on it, but said it ‘could be of the scale we have seen before’. If so, that might mean a second increase this year of £700.


Ofgem’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley (pictured left), told MPs wholesale gas prices are volatile and it is impossible to make any firm predictions. Mr Brearley added: ‘We are not experts in geo-politics but we expect that if Russia (pictured right: President Vladimir Putin) invades Ukraine – there is a sanctions regime and that Russia limits gas supplies to Europe’

Mr Brearley said: ‘We are not experts in geo-politics but we expect that if Russia invades Ukraine (pictured: Members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces) there is a sanctions regime and that Russia limits gas supplies to Europe’

Britain was self-sufficient for natural less than 20 years ago – but now imports more than half of it from Europe including some from Russia

A map showing gas pipelines from Russia to Europe. The dotted line at the top is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which when built with make land in Germany – which is heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs

Map showing points of origin and destination of the Nord Stream pipe (solid line) and Nord Stream 2 pipeline (dotted line) between Russia and Germany. Putin hoped Nord Stream 2 would be finished two years ago, allowing Russia to bypass Ukraine in the south, which carries 50% of gas from Russia out via Poland

Putin ‘will hit US and European BANKS with cyber attacks to inflict economic chaos’ if Russia invades Ukraine, financial regulators fear 

Vladimir Putin could target European and US banks with a coordinated cyber attack to inflict economic chaos worldwide if Russia invades Ukraine.

The European Central Bank has already told banks to conduct cyber war games to test their ability to fend off a potential attack, with financial regulators on high alert for a new strike.

A military invasion would likely land Russia with its own economic sanctions, but insiders fear Putin may strike first and try to disrupt the West’s economic structures.

The ECB, led by former French minister Christine Lagarde and which has oversight of Europe’s biggest lenders, has already diverted its attention from regular scams to cyber attacks launched from Russia, an insider revealed.

They added security chiefs have told European and US banks to shore up their defences in preparation for a potential hack. 

The New York Department of Financial Services also issued an alert to financial institutions in late January warning of cyber attacks, according to Thomson Reuters’ Regulatory Intelligence. 

Earlier this year, multiple Ukrainian websites were hit by a cyber strike that left a warning to ‘be afraid and expect the worst’, as Russia amassed more than 100,000 troops near their borders.

Ukraine’s state security service SBU said it saw signs the attack was linked to hacker groups associated with Russian intelligence services. 

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the Russian state has anything to do with hacking around the world and said it is ready to cooperate with the United States and others to crack down on cyber crime.

Nonetheless, regulators in Europe are on high alert.

The watchdog’s director of strategy, Neil Kenward, said: ‘What the data is telling us now, if you look at futures markets for next winter, is suggesting there could be a further increase in the price cap, but actually we don’t know that yet.

‘Over the next six months, markets will respond to events such as Russia-Ukraine and other factors and that will then determine the price cap level in the coming winter.’

Details emerged in evidence to MPs on the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, who are investigating prices.

It also emerged that the collapse of over 25 energy firms in recent months saw some £200million of customers’ money go missing. This is money people had overpaid and was being held by their supplier.

Ofgem said it will now be up to all consumers to repay this money through a levy on bills that could amount to £10.

Mr Brearley admitted that the regulator should have acted faster in testing the financial resilience of new suppliers coming into the market to make sure they would survive increases in wholesale prices.

Ofgem has put forward plans for tougher financial checks. It is also proposing to change the price cap more frequently to quickly reflect changes in wholesale costs.  

It comes as finance chiefs warned Vladimir Putin could target European and US banks with a coordinated cyber attack to inflict economic chaos worldwide if Russia invades Ukraine.

The European Central Bank has already told banks to conduct cyber war games to test their ability to fend off a potential attack, with financial regulators on high alert for a new strike.

A military invasion would likely land Russia with its own economic sanctions, but insiders fear Putin may strike first and try to disrupt the West’s economic structures.

The ECB, led by former French minister Christine Lagarde and which has oversight of Europe’s biggest lenders, has already diverted its attention from regular scams to cyber attacks launched from Russia, an insider revealed.

They added security chiefs have told European and US banks to shore up their defences in preparation for a potential hack. 

The New York Department of Financial Services also issued an alert to financial institutions in late January warning of cyber attacks, according to Thomson Reuters’ Regulatory Intelligence. 

Earlier this year, multiple Ukrainian websites were hit by a cyber strike that left a warning to ‘be afraid and expect the worst’, as Russia amassed more than 100,000 troops near their borders. 

Earlier this year, multiple Ukrainian websites were hit by a cyber strike that left a warning to ‘be afraid and expect the worst’, as Russia amassed more than 100,000 troops near their borders. Pictured: This satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies shows a troop housing area and vehicle park in Rechitsa, Belarus, on Friday

A military invasion would likely land Russia with its own economic sanctions, but insiders fear Putin may strike first and try to disrupt the West’s economic structures. Pictured: A satellite image showing multiple rocket launcher deployments near Yelsk, Belarus, on Friday

Demands grow for windfall tax on energy firms as BP boasts BIGGEST profits in eight years at £9.5BN

Demand is growing for energy firms to face a windfall tax after oil giant BP posted its highest annual profit in eight years and announced more returns for shareholders while Shell boasted of ‘momentous’ £12billion profits – and ordinary Britons endure soaring energy bills amid rampant inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

BP revealed it swung to a mammoth £9.5 billion underlying replacement cost profit – its preferred measure – for 2021 from losses of £4.2 billion the previous year, notching up £3.01 billion of profits in the final three months alone – up from just £85.1 million a year earlier.

The company also announced more cash returns for shareholders, with another £1.1 billion of share buybacks before its first-quarter 2022 results and a dividend payout of 3.37p a share for the fourth quarter.

And London-based energy giant Shell has increased its profits nearly fourteen-fold to £12billion, it was revealed last week. The company collected £6.55 ($8.88) for every thousand cubic feet of gas it sold to customers in the last quarter of 2021 – with gas previously selling for less than half this amount only six months earlier.

BP had recovered from a torrid 2020, when the pandemic sent it slumping £13.4 billion into the red on a statutory basis – its biggest ever annual loss.

But oil and gas prices have since rebounded as economies worldwide reopened following the early stages of the pandemic – and the results are now intensifying pressure on energy firms as they reap mammoth profit hauls while households and businesses struggle to pay energy bills amid soaring inflation.

A sharp rise in wholesale gas prices has led to energy regulator Ofgem raising the cap that limits what suppliers can charge consumers in England, Scotland and Wales by £693 to £1,971 a year from April – with a further hike expected in October.

Britons also face other demands on their income, including rising food, broadband and mobile phone costs as inflation rises to a 30-year high, with the Bank of England forecasting it will hit 7.25 per cent in April.

Calls are now growing for a windfall tax on energy giants, with Labour MPs arguing that while households are paying through their teeth for gas – energy bills are set to spike more than 50% in April – the companies which extract that gas are reporting massive profits.

Shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero Ed Miliband tweeted: ‘BP’s results demonstrate again that it is fair and right to levy a windfall tax on oil and gas producers to help the millions of families facing the cost of living crisis. The Conservatives are completely out of step with the mood of the country in rejecting it.’

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey described the energy crisis as a ‘redistribution of wealth from millions of people struggling to pay their heating bills to shareholders of large oil and gas firms’ which must be tackled through the introduction of a windfall tax on fossil fuel producers.

Ukraine’s state security service SBU said it saw signs the attack was linked to hacker groups associated with Russian intelligence services. 

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the Russian state has anything to do with hacking around the world and said it is ready to cooperate with the United States and others to crack down on cyber crime.

Nonetheless, regulators in Europe are on high alert.

It comes as it was yesterday revealed that hundreds of thousands of households will be paid to ration their electricity usage at peak times amid Britain’s cost of living crisis.

Up to 1.4million customers of Octopus Energy will be paid to cut their normal power consumption at certain two-hour periods during the day, including 4.30pm to 6.30pm, from Friday.

Officials want to try to reduce the pressure on the electricity grid and limit the amount of new capacity that needs to be build as demand for electricity rises.

The results of the trial will help the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) work out how best to design and run the system as the UK ditches reliable but dirty fossil fuel plants.

Demand for electricity is set to surge in coming decades as people ditch their petrol and diesel cars for electric models and swap gas boilers for electric heat pumps or hydrogen made from renewable energy, under the Government’s net zero drive.

This will happen as coal and gas-fired power stations make way for more and more wind and solar power. 

Britons were warned last week that they face the biggest fall in living standards on record with energy bills and mortgage rates soaring on what has been dubbed ‘Black Thursday’.

Isabelle Haigh, head of National Control at ESO, said: ‘System flexibility is vital to help manage and reduce peak electricity demand and keep Britain’s electricity flowing securely.

‘This trial will provide valuable insight into how suppliers may be able to utilise domestic flexibility to help reduce stress on the system during high demand, lower balancing costs and deliver consumer benefits.’

Guy Newey, of Energy Systems Catapult, said: ‘Making the whole system more flexible is an absolutely essential part of the transition (to a lower carbon grid). How do you make the most out of your energy infrastructure? Smart tariffs and digital technology has huge potential in that area.

‘We don’t know yet how consumers are going to respond. But if a lot of it’s automated and going on in the background, and I know I’m going to get a slightly lower price, then I think we’ll find that people are pretty happy to do that.

‘And if that avoids the need to build however many gigawatts of new energy then that’s potentially a really important saving for consumers. It’s all about making the system as smart as possible and this trial seems an important step in that direction.’

James Eddison, co-founder of Octopus Energy Group, added: ‘It’s a tremendous opportunity to unlock flexibility at an unprecedented scale, and we can’t wait to get started.’

It comes after Rishi Sunak yesterday finally unveiled a £9billion cost-of-living crisis package but admitted it will hardly make a dent in the pain for families.

The Chancellor announced new help in the Commons minutes after it was revealed the energy price cap is going up 54 per cent for millions of people in April, meaning typical costs will rise £693 to £1,971.

And as he spoke, the Bank of England pushed interest rates to 0.5 per cent to control rampant inflation, which it now believes will reach 7.25 per cent in April and act like a lead weight on the economy, as well as pushing up unemployment.

The annual bill for a typical household is due to go up from £1,277 to £1,971 from April 1, but some industry analysts are predicting it will go up again to £2,300 from October 1. The rise is being blamed on a spike in wholesale gas prices (pictured)

Mr Brearley admitted that the regulator should have acted faster in testing the financial resilience of new suppliers coming into the market to make sure they would survive increases in wholesale prices. Pictured: Ofgem shows the breakdown of costs in the energy price cap for a dual fuel customer paying by direct debit with typical use

As he spoke, the Bank of England pushed interest rates to 0.5 per cent to control rampant inflation, which it now believes will reach 7.25 per cent in April and act like a lead weight on the economy, as well as pushing up unemployment

Boris Johnson tells Cabinet North Sea oil and gas production MUST continue during Net Zero transition 

Boris Johnson has told ministers that North Sea oil and gas must continue during the Net Zero transition.

The PM laid down a marker about the need for domestic production to be maintained as Cabinet discussed soaring energy costs and volatility over Ukraine.

The session came after oil giant BP announced £9.5billion profits – but warned that any attempt to impose a windfall tax would crush investment in the North Sea.

No10 insisted it still does not support a windfall tax on fossil fuel firms.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is understood to be ‘firmly backing’ North Sea development amid pressure to speed up Net Zero progress.

Mr Johnson has declared he wants the UK to reach the carbon emissions status by 2050.

The regulator – the Oil and Gas Authority – is reportedly considering giving the green light for drilling in six fields, although some have been licensed for decades.

They are the Rosebank field, to the west of Shetland, and at Jackdaw, Marigold, Brodick, Catcher and Tolmount East in the North Sea.

The combined reserves are thought to be enough to power the UK for six months, with 62million tonnes of oil-equivalent fuel in the ground.

A Whitehall source told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The Business Secretary is pushing for more investment into the North Sea while we transition… Kwasi is actively resisting insane calls from Labour and the eco-lobby to turn off UK production.

‘Doing so would trash energy security, kill off 200,000 jobs, and we would only end up importing more from foreign countries with dubious records.’

Government sources dismissed claims that Rishi Sunak has been lobbying Mr Kwarteng to approve more drilling sites.

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘There is obviously volatility in gas prices, you are seeing that reflected in profits.

‘I am not going to comment on individual companies. Those that perform well pay more in taxes, including corporation tax.’

The spokesman said the UK was investing in renewables to provide further security of supply, with important roles for nuclear and offshore wind, as the economy moved towards net zero.

‘The oil and gas industry will continue to play a role as we make that transition. They are investing in clean technologies like carbon capture and hydrogen that we need to get to net zero,’ the spokesman said.

It cautioned that disposable incomes are on track to fall by around 2 per cent — the worst impact since comparable records began in 1990.

Mr Sunak said A-D band homes in England will get £150 council tax rebates, while £200 government-backed discounts will help temporarily keep electricity bills lower for everyone — but must be repaid over five years.

There will also be a £150million ‘discretionary fund’ for local authorities to distribute to worse-off families.

But Mr Sunak conceded it would be ‘wrong and dishonest’ to claim that he can take away all the pain, pointing to soaring global gas costs.

He said the ‘vast majority’ of households would see a £350 benefit — but that is barely half the average energy cap increase.

‘Without Government action, this could be incredibly tough for millions of hardworking families. So the Government is going to step in to directly help people manage those extra costs,’ Mr Sunak said.

The policy had been delayed by weeks of internal wrangling with Boris Johnson and the Cabinet, after many ministers pushed for the £12billion national insurance raid to be delayed or axed.

Labour accused Mr Sunak of a ‘puny’ response and a ‘buy now pay later’ approach, arguing he is merely delaying the pain.

He was also assailed by some Tory MPs, with Peter Bone branding him a ‘socialist’ in an extraordinary barb.

Mr Sunak said: ‘We are delivering that support in three different ways. First we will spread the worst of the extra costs of this year’s energy price shock over time. This year all domestic electricity customers will receive an up front discount on their bills worth £200.

‘Energy suppliers will apply the discount on people’s bills from October with the Government meeting the cost in full, that discount will automatically be repaid from people’s bills in equal £40 instalments over the next five years.’

Alarmingly many members of the Monetary Policy Committee pushed for a bigger rates increase to 0.75 per cent. Investors are anticipating the level will reach 1.5 per cent by the end of the year.

Governor Andrew Bailey said it had been a ‘close call’ but stressed there was only likely to be ‘modest’ further increases in the coming months.

He said the Bank had not acted because the economy is ‘roaring away’, but to counter the risk that inflation is becoming ‘ingrained’ domestically. The new peak is two percentage points higher than was forecast in November.

Experts are warning the cost-of-living crisis could last years, with ministers hitting the panic button amid fears it will be even more toxic to the Government than Partygate. 

It comes as demand grows for energy firms to face a windfall tax after oil giant BP posted its highest annual profit in eight years and announced more returns for shareholders while Shell boasted of ‘momentous’ £12billion profits – and ordinary Britons endure soaring energy bills amid rampant inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

BP revealed it swung to a mammoth £9.5 billion underlying replacement cost profit – its preferred measure – for 2021 from losses of £4.2 billion the previous year, notching up £3.01 billion of profits in the final three months alone – up from just £85.1 million a year earlier.

The company also announced more cash returns for shareholders, with another £1.1 billion of share buybacks before its first-quarter 2022 results and a dividend payout of 3.37p a share for the fourth quarter. 


Oil giant BP has posted its highest annual profit in eight years amid mounting pressure on the sector as the cost-of-living crisis deepens. And London-based energy giant Shell has increased its profits nearly fourteen-fold to £12billion, it was revealed last week

Pictured: Oil prices since last year. The group recovered from a torrid 2020, when the pandemic sent it slumping £13.4 billion into the red on a statutory basis – its biggest ever annual loss. Oil and gas prices have since rebounded as economies worldwide reopened following the early stages of the pandemic

And London-based energy giant Shell has increased its profits nearly fourteen-fold to £12billion, it was revealed last week. The company collected £6.55 ($8.88) for every thousand cubic feet of gas it sold to customers in the last quarter of 2021 – with gas previously selling for less than half this amount only six months earlier.

BP had recovered from a torrid 2020, when the pandemic sent it slumping £13.4 billion into the red on a statutory basis – its biggest ever annual loss.

But oil and gas prices have since rebounded as economies worldwide reopened following the early stages of the pandemic – and the results are now intensifying pressure on energy firms as they reap mammoth profit hauls while households and businesses struggle to pay energy bills amid soaring inflation. 

Calls are now growing for a windfall tax on energy giants, with Labour MPs arguing that while households are paying through their teeth for gas – energy bills are set to spike more than 50% in April – the companies which extract that gas are reporting massive profits.

Shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero Ed Miliband tweeted: ‘BP’s results demonstrate again that it is fair and right to levy a windfall tax on oil and gas producers to help the millions of families facing the cost of living crisis. The Conservatives are completely out of step with the mood of the country in rejecting it.’

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey described the energy crisis as a ‘redistribution of wealth from millions of people struggling to pay their heating bills to shareholders of large oil and gas firms’ which must be tackled through the introduction of a windfall tax on fossil fuel producers.

Why is Britain reliant on Europe and Russia for gas? And how can it be self-sufficient again? 

Where does Britain get its gas from now? 

The UK largely sources its gas from fields in the North Sea and Irish sea, which along with other reserves in British waters provide around 50 percent of the country’s supply.

Another significant portion is made up of European imports, with a pipeline across the North Sea from Norway to the UK being by far the largest source – 20 percent – from the continent, with both The Netherlands and Belgium also supplying the UK with some of its gas.

Further afield, another 20 percent comes from Qatar and the wider Middle East. The US also supplies the UK with some Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

By contrast, gas imports from Russia make up only around five percent of the UK’s total usage. But Moscow has a grip on Europe’s gas supplies.

What’s happened to our North Sea supplies? 

Production in the North Sea has dwindled because older gas fields have become too expensive to run, and new ones have taken a long time to come on stream.

Last year about 48 per cent of UK gas came from the North Sea, down from 100 per cent in 2004, and this is projected to keep falling.

If the Government does not subsidise investment, then by 2025 domestic gas will only meet around one third of UK demand, making the country even more reliant on global markets.

Wayne Bryan, director of European Gas Research at Refinitiv, said: ‘There are untapped gas fields in the North Sea, but more investment is needed. There are three or four new gas fields starting early next year, but we’ve seen falling investment in the last 18 months.’

What’s happened to fracking? 

The Government halted fracking in England at the end of November 2019 after a series of confrontations between shale gas companies and local communities.

Supporters claim there is enough shale gas in the UK to support the country’s needs for decades.

Fracking has boomed in the US, making the country a powerhouse in global oil and gas production and securing its energy security. The technique, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water and sand underground at high pressure to fracture the rock and release trapped oil and gas.

An active fracking site near Blackpool caused several earthquakes up to a magnitude of 2.9, which left houses in the local area shaking.

Opponents of fracking also complain that sites require significant infrastructure and sand and water have to be transported to and fro in large trucks leading to traffic, noise and disruption.

The Government took its decision after a scientific study found there would be ‘unacceptable’ consequences for those living near fracking sites. But it said it could agree to new sites if there was ‘compelling new evidence’ that fracking was safe.

Does the UK have enough gas storage? 

The UK has around 18 times less gas storage than European nations such as Italy, Germany and France, making the country extremely vulnerable to volatile prices.

A focus on renewables and developing better connectivity with neighbours such as Norway, to enable the UK to import gas effectively, meant little new storage has been built.

In fact the Rough storage facility off the Yorkshire coast, which accounted for two-thirds of our gas capacity, was retired in 2017. Experts said politicians believed that there was no need to spend vast sums on new storage plants because prices had been stable between the summer and winter for many years.

What about Shetland’s oil fields?

The UK could look to new oil fields – at the risk of being accused of climate hypocrisy.

The area to the west of the Shetland Islands has been named as ‘the place to be’ by energy experts advising firms on growing Britain’s oil output. Siccar Point Energy, backed by Shell, is preparing to start drilling in the Cambo oil field, situated 75 miles to the west of the Shetlands.

It is thought to contain 800 million barrels of oil, which will be released over the next 25 years.

The boss of SPE, Jonathan Roger, said: ‘The Cambo development supports the country’s energy transition, maintaining secure UK supply.’ His words appear prophetic against this week’s wild swings in gas prices, but more licences to drill oil will enrage environmental campaigners.

It could also be against the law as the Government has created legislation committing the country to a 78 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2035, and a 100 per cent reduction by 2050. 

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