“The Big Six have sewn up the energy market and are ripping off consumers across the country.” Those were the words of one protestor in the crowd around me, as we were held for three hours in a police cordon.
The hundred-strong group of people outside the Economist UK Energy Conference today had come, they said, to protest against the UK’s largest energy companies.
Organised by the Climate Justice Collective, supported by around a dozen other campaign groups, the protest was meant to be a direct criticism of what they dubbed the “Big Six cartel”.
One protestor called Mike told me: “We know there are something like four to five million homes being overcharged for their electricity bills, we know that the cost of electricity and energy has been going up inexorably over the last few years.
“There’s been a recent report from the IPPR (Institute of Public Policy Research) which says that competition simply hasn’t worked in the energy sector.
“There’s been no reduction in costs, there’s been huge variation in how the energy companies are charging and there’s very little crossover between them. So consumers across the country are getting ripped off essentially by the companies.”
Another protestor, Phil, said he was here supporting this demonstration partly because “there’s just not enough noise about… the scale of the climate crisis.”
Around thirty police officers were called to the protest outside the energy conference and it was generally peaceful. While we saw police did have their batons out at least once during the afternoon, there is no evidence they used them.
A statement from the City of London Police force said they had policed the protest with the “proportionate response” and had no reports of any injuries. They said that so far there have been four arrests for breach of the peace.
Unconfirmed reports from social media site Twitter suggest some protestors were arrested for using chalk to draw pro-renewable slogans on the pavements.