The Big Six energy giants strangling Britain’s households with massive fuel bills this winter are also pocketing vast sums of free money from Brussels in the form of EU grants–including cash from its foreign aid budget.
They have collected £80million from the European Commission since 2007, while also making billions of pounds in profits every year.
During the same time they raised prices to UK consumers by as much as 41 per cent.
They have been given the cash handouts for a range of projects including how to inspect wind turbine blades, how to design “wind farm clusters”, for energy projects in Brazil, for solar energy research, for maintenance costs, and in some cases even for “communications”.
Critics last night pointed out that energy companies are enjoying a win-win bonanza.
While the firms blame EU-driven carbon taxes for their customers’ higher bills, they are also quietly enjoying the huge grants from Brussels for research into those same green energy projects.
The critics also argue that most other companies in the private sector have to rely on their own profits to fund investment and research.
According EU figures seen by the Sunday Express, the two largest recipients are German giant RWE, which owns ScottishPower, and Spain’s Iberdrola, the parent company of nPower.
RWE received about £37million between 2007 and 2012, almost all of it for a “gas storage” project from the European Commission’s energy directorate in 2010.
Last year, it was also given £1.5million for a project “how to overcome the barriers hampering the integration of photovolatilics into the electricity distribution system”.
Photovolatilics relates to solar power.
Meanwhile, Iberdrola submitted successful bids for grants worth £30million in the period.
The total included more than £500,000 from the EU’s aid budget in 2011 to upgrade Brazil’s Angra 2 nuclear power station.
It was awarded millions more for a series of decommissioning projects for other nuclear power plants.
Its UK subsidiary nPower hiked its gas and electricity prices by an average of 10.4 per cent last week, while ScottishPower became the fourth of the Big Six firms to make similar moves when it announced an 8.6 per cent rise on Thursday.
Only Germany’s eOn and France’s EDF Energy have yet to reveal their prices for the winter.
However, while eOn has received barely a penny from the Brussels pot, the Paris-based EDF group secured some £10million of EU tax money in the period.
By contrast, the UK’s British Gas won only £170,000, to examine how to make homes more “heat efficient”.
All Big Six companies are facing calls for a one off windfall tax in Britain amid accusations they are profiting at the expense of millions of people struggling to pay their bills.
And last night, Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “It’s meddling from politicians that have brought about the energy bill crisis faced by ordinary households, so it’s sadly no surprise to see them doling out money to firms for research.
“Rather than guaranteeing profits for energy firms while giving them money for research, green taxes should be axed easing the burden on consumers while allowing companies to take responsibility for investing their own money into new research.”
However, the energy firms say the links between their “consumer divisions” and their engineering and construction business is “weak”.
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage described the Brussels handouts as “disgraceful”.
“The ability of the EU to waste money knows no bounds,” he added.
“As for research on wind farms, what more do they need to know than that they are revoltingly expensive, a blight on the countryside and take money from the poor to give to the rich.”
A spokesman for Iberdrola said the grants it received was “to promote research in various sectors across the continent, with the goal of developing new technology or optimising efficiency”.
He added: “Most of the money went to Iberdrola Ingeniería y Construcción, a separate engineering design and construction subsidiary that builds power stations across the globe with no connection with the commercial division.”
And a spokeswoman for RWE added that “strict rules” meant grants were conditional on providing a public benefit.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission said: “The EU is not financing the everyday activities of energy companies.
“EU policies are all about increasing competition and getting prices down.
“The EU does co-finance major projects to boost safety, research and infrastructure – in energy as in every other field – that would not happen otherwise.
“The UK supports this.”
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