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UPDATE 1-UK's Truss says energy firm profit is not evil as bill forecasts soar

(Updates with bill forecast, details)
    By William James and Susanna Twidale
    LONDON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - British leadership candidate Liz
Truss, the front-runner to become prime minister, said that
while energy giants should be held to account their profits
should not be seen as either dirty or evil.
    Her comments came as analysts forecast a cap on the most
widely used household energy bills could reach over 5,000 pounds
 ($6,095.50) a year in 2023, up 150% compared with current
levels.
    This month British energy giants Centrica, BP and Shell have
published bumper profits, largely due to high wholesale gas
prices, prompting renewed calls from opposition parties and
charities for the government to impose tougher windfall taxes on
energy firms.
    "Of course, the energy giants, if they're in an oligopoly,
should be held to account and I would make sure they're
rigorously held to account," Truss told an event on Thursday for
Conservative Party members, who are voting over the next few
weeks to decide the country's next leader.
    "But, the way we bandy the word around 'profit' as if it's
something that's dirty and evil, we shouldn't be doing that as
Conservatives," she said.
    The government introduced a 25% windfall tax on oil and gas
producers' profits in May, which helped to fund a package of
support for households. Since then, wholesale gas prices have
more than doubled.
    Analysts at consultancy Auxilione forecast the price cap,
which will be updated every three months from October, could hit
5,038 pounds a year in April 2023 due to soaring energy prices
across Europe. The current cap level is 1,977 pounds.
    Finance minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Thursday that energy
companies have agreed to work with the government to help the
people who need it the most, ahead of a further surge in energy
bills going into the winter. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2ZN56I
    "It seems there is little appreciation for just how
impossible that task really is and that energy companies and the
government have little control over this in such a globally
influenced market," Auxilione analysts said.
   
($1 = 0.8203 pounds)

 (Reporting by Susanna Twidale and William James; editing by
Jonathan Oatis and Mark Heinrich)
 ((william.james@thomsonreuters.com; @wjames_reuters; +44 20
7513 4401;))

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