British Gas owner Centrica has appointed the former government minister Amber Rudd as a non-executive director.
The former home secretary also previously served as secretary of state for energy and climate change from 2015 to 2016 in David Cameron’s government during her decade as a Conservative MP.
Her recruitment comes amidan escalating energy crisis, with consumers bracing for household bills to soar in the spring, and as tensions grow between government and suppliers over how to lessen the impact of rising wholesale prices on households.
Scott Wheway, Centrica’s chairman, praised Rudd’s “wide range of expertise” and said she would bring a “wealth of real-world experience in energy” which would be “invaluable” to the company. She was energy secretary at the time of the Paris climate change agreement made at the Cop21 summit in 2015.
Centrica released news of Rudd’s appointment just hours after the company’s chief executive, Chris O’Shea, said it was not interested in receiving a government bailout to help it reduce the impact of soaring energy bills on consumers.
“There are reports that some energy companies want a £20bn handout to keep household bills down,” O’Shea wrote in an opinion piece published in the Sun newspaper. “Not British Gas. We haven’t asked for a bailout, we don’t want a bailout, and we oppose any bailouts.”
Consumers are bracing for a spike in what they pay for household energy in April, when the regulator reviews its energy price cap, a move that many expect will mean average annual bills shoot up by as much as £700.
This increase would take the annual cost of electricity and gas for households on a supplier’s default tariff to £2,000, compared with £1,300 at present.
After 26 UK energy firms collapsed in 2021, O’Shea insisted that “energy suppliers have to pass on higher wholesale costs to survive”. But he suggested the government could help consumers through other means, such as cutting VAT on energy bills, or stripping environmental levies from bills.
He calculated that the VAT cut would shave £100 off the average annual bill, although such a move has been dismissed by Boris Johnson.
O’Shea also suggested that the government should fund environmental and social levies through general taxation instead of household bills, which he estimated would cut the average annual total by £170.
Rudd will join Centrica’s board on 10 January, and will also become a member of the company’s safety, environment and sustainability committee, as well as its remuneration committee.
This is not Rudd’s first private sector role. She joined the ranks of former ministers stepping into often lucrative private-sector jobs after government when she was hired as a senior adviser to Cambridge-based cybersecurity firm Darktrace in May 2020, just as it prepared for its stock exchange flotation.