New Report – Power Ahead: An Energy System Fit For The Future

New Report – Power Ahead: An Energy System Fit For The Future

December 1, 2021

Originally published at

Sandy Brian Hager

In a new briefing with Common Wealth, Miriam Brett, Joseph Baines and I examine ownership and financial data for the “Big Six” UK energy companies: Centrica (British Gas), EDF Energy, E.ON UK, NPower, Scottish Power and SSE.

We found that:

  • Privatisation since the late-1980s transferred wealth from the UK government to the handful of private companies, investors, and foreign governments that now own the Big Six.
  • The Big Six paid out almost £23 billion in dividends the last ten years, nearly six times their tax bill for the period. They incurred over £10 billion in interest expenses, at rates significantly higher than the UK government pays on its long-term bonds.
  • Over the past decade, the average firm within the Big Six has awarded its highest paid director almost fifty times the pay of its average worker. Meanwhile, the Big Six have cut a third of their workforce over the same period, from 89,664 employees in 2011 to just 60,218 employees in 2020.

    Overall, our briefing reveals how the Big Six have been reproducing inequality within their own ranks through outsized director pay and worker layoffs. They reproduce inequality in society at large via huge dividends to shareholders and elevated interest payments to private creditors. In order to combat serious flaws that have emerged with privatisation and deregulation, we recommend taking the energy sector back into public ownership

    We wrote a summary of our briefing in an article for Tribune Magazine.