Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the bosses of BP and Shell to keep investing in wind farms and hydrogen to drive down energy bills in the UK.
Asked why he will not introduce a windfall tax on the companies’ bumper profits, he said it is better that they invest the money.
“I had the head of Shell in yesterday, and the head of BP, and I’ve talked to them both,” Mr Johnson said during a visit to a school in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency on Friday.
“Our message to them, and what is very, very clear, it’s ‘Guys, you know, this is a moment when we need you, as a country, to invest massively in clean, green renewables, in the stuff that is going to make a difference to people’s energy prices’.
“What we don’t want to do is make the same mistakes as previous governments… as I’ve just been saying – fail to invest in our energy supply. So that’s the message that we’re giving to the big energy companies.
“And it’s frankly better for them to take that cash, put it into wind farms, put it into hydrogen, put it into stuff that will make a big difference to our ability to cope with the global energy price spike, and above all make sure that this country is protected in the future so that we have more long-term energy security.”
Energy prices have rocketed in the last year, and last month the energy price cap was increased by 54% for the average household.
Bills are likely to rise even further in October when the price cap is next revisited.
Meanwhile, the high price of oil and gas has led to massive increases in the profits of energy companies such as BP and Shell.
On Tuesday, BP reported that underlying replacement cost profits – its preferred measure – had more than doubled to 6.2 billion US dollars (£5 billion).
Following that, shadow climate change and net zero secretary Ed Miliband said: “The refusal to levy a windfall tax to help cut energy bills is deeply wrong, unfair, and tells you all you need to know about whose side this Government is on – and it’s not the British people.”
When asked about a possible windfall tax being levied on BP’s profits, chief executive Bernard Looney told the Times that he would nevertheless continue with plans to invest £18 billion in Britain this decade.
Shell’s Ben van Beurden was less direct, but said his company has a “very strong commitment to investing in the UK”, where it plans to spend between £20 billion and £25 billion over the next 10 years.
“But I should also say that, if you talk about these types of investment levels, they do require a stable and predictable financial outlook, it does require stability of policy and everything else,” he said.