Over 50 Greenpeace activists staged a protest at Centrica’s headquarters yesterday, barricading the front of the office with the ‘world’s biggest energy bill’.
The protesters arrived on the campus of the British Gas-owner early in the morning and were able to gain access to the building and block off the entry to the office’s car park, severely disrupting employees’ access to the building. A handful of protesters locked themselves into one of the office’s main rooms and began wallpapering it with mock energy bills.
The environmental charity explained that it felt moved to take action against Centrica because it has invested the least in renewable energy sources out of all the big six utilities, whilst enjoying record levels of profit.
In an open-letter to British Gas boss, Sam Laidlaw, the charity urges Centrica to take responsibility for spiralling bills and help tackle climate change, stating: “The average energy bill rose by £150 from March 2011 to March 2012, £100 of which was due solely to the soaring price of gas. Centrica, however, has sought to shift the blame for rising bills away from its own profiteering and dependence on expensive gas, and on to clean, renewable energy. This is despite support for renewables accounting for just £25 of an average annual energy bill of £1320. That’s 48p per week.
“The UK is now a net importer of gas and most experts expect prices to rise even further, while the cost of renewable energy is set to continue to fall. If the current pipeline of gas power stations are constructed, the UK will miss its carbon reduction targets and miss out on the opportunity for a world class clean energy industry, which can bring bills under control and create jobs.
“Despite this, your company is lobbying for the UK’s dependence on expensive and polluting gas burning to be increased, at the expense of cutting-edge renewable technologies. Many of your rivals have recognised the importance of reducing their reliance on expensive gas imports, investing a far greater proportion of their capital into clean, renewable alternatives.
“Between 2007-2011 Centrica built the least renewable energy capacity and invested the smallest proportion of its income into new electricity generating infrastructure of any of the Big Six energy utilities. You have consistently made the highest profit margin of any of the Big Six and have handed over 74 percent of your profits to shareholders, while failing to invest in bringing bills under control and tackling climate change.”
A Centrica spokesman told the Guardian: “We recognise the impact that higher energy prices are having on household budgets. That's why British Gas has announced a series of measures to help customers, including a cut in electricity prices, free insulation and help for eligible customers to claim the warm homes discount.
“In the past three years, we have spent more than £500 million on helping vulnerable customers, more than any other organisation in Britain bar the government. In terms of our environmental commitment, we have one of the lowest carbon intensities of the major power generators in the UK and have invested more than £3 billion in the last three years in lower carbon generation and are a major investor in offshore wind.”
A video explaining Greenpeace’s protest can be viewed below: