Protesters converge on Centrica AGM
United in their loathing of the company, the groups have a wide spectrum of complaints - from excessive profits to the environmental impact of fracking. They are meeting outside British Gas's annual general meeting at the QEII Conference Centre in London at 1.00 under the banner "Bin British Gas: Put Power in Public Hands!".
%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%"Public opinion polls consistently show that people are deeply dissatisfied with the current energy system and are in favour of renewable and publicly controlled energy. But the government and the likes of British Gas continue to plough ahead with killer priced for-profit energy and unsustainable fracking," says Clare Welton of Fuel Poverty Action.
"With a poverty and climate crisis already underway, we desperately need to fight for a different energy future with community and publicly owned affordable and renewable energy at its heart."
British Gas outraged customers last November by putting up gas prices by 10.4 percent and electricity by 8.4 percent. It made profits of £600 million for the year. Meanwhile, says Fuel Povery Action, an estimated five million homes, 20 percent of households, are in debt to their energy supplier and a quarter are choosing between heating and eating.
Last year, parent company Centrica signed a two-year fracking contract with Cuadrilla for a shale-drilling exploration project in Lancashire. And there are plenty of other complaints, from the discovery that British Gas was blocking businesses from switching suppliers to allegations that it gave bonuses to staff who signed up charities and small businesses to the most expensive tariffs possible. Last week, the company pledged to leave energy tariffs unchanged for the next year - but for many this is too little, too late.
The groups - which include Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, UK Uncut and Disabled People Against Cuts are calling for demonstrators to make as much noise as they can. "Bring pots and pans and other noise makers so we can make sure that British Gas hears that it's game over for rip-off bills and dirty energy," says Fuel Poverty Action.
The public - and shareholders - are getting increasingly angry about excessive corporate profits and bonuses. Last month, AstraZeneca shareholders protested against executive pay at the drug firm's AGM. Meanwhile, over a third of Barclays shareholders failed to back the company over executive pay; and last week more than 40 percent of Standard Chartered investors voted against a new pay structure.