Energy group Centrica said it will donate 10% of the profits made by its British Gas retail arm to vulnerable customers, though only a fraction of bill payers are likely to benefit.
The utility said it would contribute 10% of energy supply profits to the British Gas Energy Support Fund “for the duration of the energy crisis”, backdated to the start of 2022.
British Gas posted pre-tax profits of £98 million for the first half of 2022 – a slide of over 40% on last year – though said it would round up its contribution to £12 million to ensure more funding is available through the winter.
“This will help the most financially vulnerable customers who are struggling to pay their bills,” the company said in a statement.
Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea added: “The current cost of living crisis requires all of us to think differently. As a responsible business we want to do more to support our customers during this difficult time. Committing ten percent of our profits for the duration of the energy crisis will mean we can target help at those who need it the most.”
Mr O’Shea said the group had donated £18m to the British Gas Energy Support Fund so far this year, and that an additional £2m investment was made through the British Gas Energy Trust to fund a further 20 money advice centres.
However, British Gas’ results pale in comparison to those of its parent, which reported adjusted operating profits of £1.3bn for the first half of 2022.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Paul de Leeuw, director of the RGU Energy Transition Institute at Robert Gordon University said British Gas’ commitment would only help around 0.5% of its 7.5 million customers.
“They’ve got 7.5 million energy customers in the UK, so if you look at the money that is available, it’s probably going to benefit around 40,000 people max, so that’s 0.5% of their customer base,” Mr de Leeuw said.
He noted that the enlarged £12m donation amounted to roughly 1% of Centrica’s profits.
“99.5% of Centrica and British Gas customers are probably not going to see any benefit from this,” he added.
UK tabloid The Sun joined the criticism too, noting in an editorial column that Centrica “can do so much more,” whilst excoriating other energy majors such as BP and Shell for what it described as “scandalously vast war profits.”