Archbishop of Canterbury meets energy CEOs

(PA)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, has met with CEOs of the "Big Six" energy firms.

The heads of British Gas, EDF Energy, E.On, and Npower were all expected to be attending the "chief executive level" meeting with Archbishop Welby today.

A statement released by the Archbishop's office aftert the meeting read: "The Archbishop of Canterbury today welcomed a small group of senior representatives from the energy industry to hear their perspectives on social responsibility around the energy supply sector.

"This is one of a number of private meetings hosted by Archbishop Justin in order to draw on the experience of people from different areas of national life."

Although SSE and Scottish Power declined to attend, the remaining four will be three more than the number that attended a recent House of Commons select committee hearing, where only one CEO, Tony Cocker of E.On, turned out for.

SSE CEO Alistair Philips-Davies's office cited "diary commitments" but a spokesman has extended the Archbishop an open invitation "to meet with our team and staff" at a later date.

The spokesman added in a statement, "SSE understands the pressures on households due to rising energy prices and we are always happy to engage with anyone who wants to get involved in finding ways to reduce the impact of energy price pressures on customers."

A spokesman from Npower was more positive, saying: "We would always want to try and engage with the issue [of fuel poverty].

"We want to talk about that with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and with any important stakeholder who has got a stake in these things.

"While energy is not the usual territory for religious leaders, it is important from a poverty point of view which is certainly their territory, so it is right talk."

Archbishop Welby, previously an employee of the Elf Aquitaine oil firm in Paris and later worked as treasurer to Enterprise Oil PLC in London,.

He has previously been highly critical of the above inflation price rises issued from the "Big Six".

Speaking in October at the time of the latest wave of price rises, he said: "The impact on people, particularly on low incomes, is going to be really severe.

"I do understand when people feel that this is inexplicable, and I can understand people being angry about it, because having spent years on a low income as a clergyman I know what it is like when your household budget is blown apart by a significant extra fuel bill and your anxiety levels become very high."

Discussing energy firms themselves, he said they have an obligation to "behave with generosity and not merely to maximise opportunity… [they have a] huge responsibility to serve society".

Recently, the Government has announced plans to cut energy bills by approximately £50 per year by reducing contributions to energy efficiency schemes.

However fuel poverty campaigners have complained that this is the wrong solution, as it will cut access to building refitting schemes for poorer households.

The campaign group, Fuel Poverty Action said that this plan made "no impact on energy company profits or their [chief executives'] bonuses, it simply transfers costs onto the taxpayer whilst making life harder for poorly insulated, cold households".

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