Covid-stricken US households wipe £56m off National Grid profits

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Financially hard-hit US households have knocked £56m from National Grid’s underlying profits for the first half of the year as the company counts the cost of Covid-19.

The energy firm, which is also a supplier in the US, said the pandemic wiped a total of £117m from its underlying profits compared with last year. The crisis had lowered revenues, raised costs and left more homes unable to pay their bills, it added.

National Grid’s underlying profit tumbled by 12% to £1.1bn in the six months to the end of September, compared with a profit of £1.3bn last year, after it warned investors in June that the pandemic could take a £400m toll on its full-year results.

The company has also faced a string of heavy storms in the US, which wiped $61m off half-year profits. Another large storm – which hit upstate New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island in early October – could result in a $100m cost for the year.

John Pettigrew, the chief executive, said he was pleased with National Grid’s response to the pandemic. The company was well-positioned to weather the rest of the financial year, he added, and remained focused on smoothing the regulatory challenges while preparing for a low-carbon future.

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National Grid faces renewed questions in the UK over whether it should continue to run the electricity system through its National Grid Electricity System Operator subsidiary, or whether the task should be passed to an independent public operator.

The company narrowly avoided being stripped of the job a few years ago by agreeing to a legal separation of its role as the energy system’s operator from its core business to avoid a conflict of interests.

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Pettigrew told the Guardian he was “open to role evolving” but cautioned that any change to the way the energy system operated should be thought about “in the context of the broader changes going on”.

The government and the industry regulator are expected to deliver the findings of their separate reviews into National Grid’s future role within the sector after a long-awaited energy white paper that aims to set the path for the UK’s net zero ambitions.