The boss of British Gas owner Centrica has told the BBC his pay last year of £4.5m is “impossible to justify”.
Chris O’Shea described the package of salary, bonus and shares as a huge amount of money and said he was incredibly fortunate.
While he pointed out that he did not set his pay, he admitted that – with customers struggling with bills – “you can’t justify a salary of that size”.
UK domestic energy customers have fallen nearly £3bn behind on bills.
Mr O’Shea was speaking to BBC Breakfast about a range of topics, including ongoing concern from households about fixed standing charges.
There was also discussion about the high cost of gas and electricity in recent years, which have played a huge part in cost-of-living pressures faced by households.
But when the interview turned to his own pay package, he admitted that there was “no point” in trying to justify what he received.
“I’m incredibly fortunate,” he said. “I don’t set my own pay, that’s set by our remuneration committee.
“You can’t justify a salary of that size. It’s a huge amount of money to anyone looking at it.”
He said his mother was on the basic state pension, and that many customers were struggling.
But he pointed out that the presenters interviewing him also received well over the average wage, and also did not set their own salary.
Mr O’Shea turned down a £1.1m bonus in 2021 due to “hardships” faced by customers. He also refused bonuses in 2020 and 2019 because of the pandemic.
There was criticism in March when his latest bonuses were declared. Centrica said Mr O’Shea had delivered “shareholder value” and navigated “regulatory and political issues”.
The company said at the time that it needed to pay bonuses to attract and retain leaders.
However, it came shortly after an investigation by the Times newspaper revealed debt agents working for British Gas had broken into the homes of vulnerable people to force-fit prepayment meters.
It led to a temporary sector-wide ban on such fittings, with British Gas still unable to resume under stricter rules.
Centrica’s profits for 2022 hit £3.3bn after oil and gas prices jumped following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr O’Shea said that the retail arm of British Gas contributed £150m to that figure.