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    UK minister responds to high energy prices


Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is holding meetings over the coming days to discuss the impact of record high energy prices on suppliers and consumers.

by: William Powell

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UK minister responds to high energy prices

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng held a series of individual meetings with senior executives from the energy industry to discuss the impact of high gas prices, driven by international supply and demand factors, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said September 18.

The Energy Intensive Users Group had written to government and energy regulator Ofgem September 17 asking them to address the soaring wholesale energy prices as matter of urgency. Several UK industrial sites are no longer operating as the margins have become too thin. 

Kwarteng said he was "reassured that security of supply was not a cause for immediate concern within the industry. The UK benefits from having a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand. As previously stated, the UK’s gas system continues to operate reliably and we do not anticipate any increased risk of supply emergencies this winter," the statement said.

He stressed that energy security "is an absolute priority for this government. We are confident that security of supply can be maintained under a wide range of scenarios. Great Britain also benefits from a diverse electricity mix, which is one of the reasons why we have one of the most reliable electricity systems in the world.

"Whilst our largest single supply source of gas continues to be from domestic production -- and the vast majority of imports come from reliable suppliers such as Norway -- the UK’s exposure to volatile global gas prices underscores the importance of the government’s plan to build a strong, home-grown renewable energy sector to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

"The pressure being faced by some energy companies was also discussed during the meetings after four small suppliers ceased to trade in recent weeks. Ofgem has robust measures in place to ensure that customers do not need to worry, their needs are met, and their gas and electricity supply will continue uninterrupted if a supplier fails. If the appointment of a Supplier of Last Resort is not possible, Ofgem and the government have agreed processes in place to appoint a special administrator to temporarily run the business until such time as a new supplier can be found for the customers.

Kwarteng also stressed the importance of protecting vulnerable customers during a time of heightened global gas prices. The Energy Price Cap is also in place to protect millions of customers from the sudden increases in global gas prices this winter.

He will meet energy markets regulator Ofgem September 19 to discuss the issues raised by the industry in more detail, and he will convene a roundtable September 20 with industry to plan a way forward. He is also working in contact with colleagues across government to manage the wider implications of the global gas price increase, the statement said.