Unite Press Release

For immediate release: Wednesday 17 May 2023

New union investigation reveals taking energy into public ownership would end the ‘scandal of energy company profiteering’

Last year bill payers could have saved £45 billion with average bills cut by £1800. 

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham to urge Starmer to reconsider Labour policy.  

Taking public control of the UK’s energy network could reduce bills, reduce inflation, and pay for itself in a few years, reveals new research by Unite the Union.

 Unite Investigates “Renationalising Energy - costs and savings considers how a publicly run energy network could use the massive profits of Britain’s energy giants to reduce household bills and fund the transition to a green future with secure jobs.

Unite Investigates’ report  is the first to determine the potential costs and savings of taking public control of the entire UK energy network – including North Sea oil and gas production, electricity generation, transmission and distribution networks, and supply companies.

The report reveals that companies made £45 billion profit from the UK domestic energy system in 2022. If that money had been kept in public hands, it could have been used to save each household £1,800 on their energy bills. Read Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham’s interview in today’s FT.

Household energy bills have been one of the biggest contributors to high inflation. Using energy profits to freeze bills in summer 2021, when prices started to shoot up, would have meant inflation was at least 4.1% lower last year. So in due course nationalisation could markedly reduce inflation.

Unite’s report also investigates the potential costs of nationalisation. Using the ‘book value’ approach, which compensates companies for their spending, Unite estimates a total cost of £90 billion. That is equal to just two years of profits at the 2022 level. Even as energy prices fall, taking control of energy would pay for itself within a few years.

Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary said: “It’s time to end the scandal of our energy system which allows profiteers to pocket billions while workers and communities are left in the cold.”

“For the first time we have laid out the full costs and savings of taking the entire energy network we all rely on into public ownership.

“It’s a tragic missed opportunity that, if the energy system had been run for the benefit of all not the profits of a few, households could have saved £45 billion, avoiding high bills that have left millions in the cold or searching for ‘warm banks.’

“It’s time to pull the plug on the energy profiteers. Unite is showing it’s no longer a question of ‘can we afford to’, it’s how long can we afford not to.”

This report follows the historic profits recorded by BP and Shell, who made a combined profit of £55 billion and British Gas owner Centrica.

Unite has previously exposed rampant profiteering by electricity and gas distributors, who made £6.3 billion in 2021 with huge long-term operating profit margins of over 40 per cent.


Notes to editors:

The Unite Investigates research “Renationalising Energy - costs and savings” is available here:  https://www.unitetheunion.org/unpluggingenergyprofiteers/

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Ciaran Naidoo: 07768 931 315

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Instagram: unitetheunion Web: unitetheunion.org

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.