Small energy firms 'escape levies'

pylon Small energy providers are exempt from some social levies

Related Stories

The head of one of the UK's biggest energy companies has suggested that smaller providers have an unfair cost advantage.

Tony Cocker, the chief executive of E.On, said small companies were excused from paying some of the environmental and social levies.

Such levies make up between 8% to 9% of the average bill.

It comes amid speculation that the prime minister may order a Competition Commission inquiry into the market.

On Tuesday, Mr Cocker told MPs that there should be a full investigation. He and seven other company bosses were called before the Energy and Climate Change Committee to justify recent price rises.

Start Quote

Once an investigation is launched - and I am told that the prime minister is very close to initiating one - a cloud of expensive uncertainty will descend on the industry”

End Quote

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Mr Cocker said: "The small companies are exempt from a number of environmental and social obligations. Not all, but some of them."


Energy firms with less than 250,000 customers do not have to pay the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), or the Warm Home Discount.

In addition, those not involved in fossil fuel generation participate in neither the EU Emissions Trading Scheme nor the Carbon Price Floor.

Together those account for £71 on an average bill. In other words, customers of the smaller companies are relatively unburdened by such levies.

Customers of the larger companies also pay different amounts.

electricity prices

British Gas says its customers pay £160 a year on average to cover the levy costs.

SSE customers pay £120.

This means that customers of the seven biggest companies might face the largest reduction in their bills, should the government reduce the levies, or transfer them into general taxation.


Stephen Fitzpatrick, the managing director of Ovo Energy, claimed that his firm could cut bills for many consumers.

"I can tell you, of the four companies that have raised their prices, we are around £160 cheaper. So that's about 12% to 13% for a customer of average consumption," Mr Fitzpatrick told the BBC.

Ovo raised its prices by 5.8% in April 2013.

So far this month, British Gas, SSE, Scottish Power and Npower have raised prices by an average of 9.1%.

Social and environmental levies

Levy Use Cost to customer per year

source: DECC

Energy Companies Obligation (ECO)

Energy-saving measures for low income homes


Warm Home Discount

Rebate to low-income households


Renewables Obligation

Requires companies to buy green energy


European Trading Scheme

Sets cap on emissions


Carbon Price Floor

Tax on use of fossil fuels


Feed in Tariffs

Subsidy for green energy generation


Smart meters and better billing

To cut use of estimated bills


The regulator, Ofgem, estimates that levies add about £107 a year to an average bill, or 8%.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) puts the figure at £112, or about 9%.

At Prime Minister's questions, David Cameron repeated his pledge to consider "rolling back" some of the levies.

"What we need is more competition, and lower levies and charges to drive prices down," he said.

But the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, accused him of changing his mind on levies.

"In January he was boasting about the size of his levies. He was saying the bigger, the better. Now he's saying the opposite," said Mr Miliband.

"Most companies don't want a price freeze," he added, "and most consumers do."

Mr Cameron said that it was not a "price freeze", but a "price con."

The government is expected to announce more details of its annual review of the energy market on Thursday.

The review will be led by the regulator Ofgem, together with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

gas prices

More on This Story

Related Stories

From other news sites

* May require registration or subscription

More Business stories


Business Live

    07:12: Budget Samsung

    $100 for a Samsung smartphone? CNBC reports the South Korean company is entering the increasingly competitive budget handset market, in a bid to sell more phones in India, where many people still use simple phones. The new handset will run Samsung's own Tizen software.

    06:58: Rates Radio 5 live

    The Bank of England's Martin Weale adds that he is optimistic about the year ahead. More money to spend from cheaper oil will help. He's on the committee that helps decide the key interest rate. Will it rise this year? He's careful not to second-guess his colleagues on that one.

    06:46: Santa rally? Radio 5 live

    Will there be a so-called Santa rally this year? A rise in markets in the days around Christmas? Brenda Kelly from IG says you see one in almost nine out of every 10 years since the '80s.

    06:28: Rates Radio 5 live

    The Bank of England's Martin Weale has been telling Wake Up to Money why he's been voting for interest rates to move off the record low of 0.5%. "It isn't only that unemployment has been falling - at least until recently extremely rapidly. It's also that when I go and visit businesses throughout the country I find they're talking of pay increases in a way quite different from what I was hearing early in the year certainly this time last year."

    06:16: Markets Radio 5 live

    Brenda Kelly from IG is Wake Up to Money's markets guest. They are talking about the falling oil prices. "A lot of it is down to a glut of supply and Saudi Arabia wants to keep market share," she says. Saudi's breakeven price is only a few dollars per barrel.

    06:10: Christmas spending Radio 5 live

    Mark Barnett, UK & Ireland president of Mastercard, is on Wake Up to Money, talking about Christmas shopping habits. What else? People have returned to luxury goods, he said. Holidays and furniture are down a little bit though.

    06:04: Hacking 2.0
    Kim Jong

    The global cyberwar that dominated headlines last week shows no signs of abating. Hackers have infiltrated South Korea's nuclear power provider, and posted schematics of nuclear reactors and private personal records online. It's not clear whether the same group that attacked Sony Pictures is responsible.

    06:00: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Morning! Get in touch. Tell us what you think. Email or on Twitter @BBCBusiness

    06:00: Joe Miller Business Reporter

    Good morning, and festive greetings all round. In a week when the business world is winding down for Christmas, we'll bring you all the news that's sneaking in the back door, and much more besides.



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.