politics

Top Tory insists UK will avoid energy emergency this winter as gas prices soar


It comes amid ongoing supply chain issues, with Covid and Brexit being blamed for reports of empty shelves in the UK

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Britain would not be hit by an energy emergency
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Britain would not be hit by an energy emergency

Britain will not run out of energy this winter despite mounting concerns over a spike in wholesale prices, the Business Secretary has insisted.

Tory Kwasi Kwarteng sought to quell fears over soaring gas prices, which risks disruption to food supplies in the UK.

He said the Government “do not expect supply emergencies this winter” as he held urgent talks with energy suppliers and operators on Saturday.

It comes amid ongoing supply chain issues, with Covid and Brexit being blamed for reports of empty shelves in the UK.

OGUK, which represents the nation’s offshore oil and gas industry, said wholesale prices for gas have surged 250% since January with a 70% rise since August alone.

High global demand, maintenance issues and lower solar and wind energy output have been blamed for the surge.







The UK is currently facing a supply chain crisis



Russia has also been accused of rigging prices to undermine the UK and EU recovery from the pandemic.

Some 40 MEPs called on the European Commission to launch an urgent probe into “possible deliberate market manipulation” by Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company.

Gazprom said it supplied its customers with gas in full compliance with existing contracts.

Former Ofgem boss Dermot Nolan warned that Britain could face high energy prices for the rest of the year.

He blamed depleted stocks following a cold winter last year, reduced supply from Russia, and increased demand for liquefied natural gas from the Far East.





He told the Today programme: “It is not obvious to me what can be done in the very short run. Britain does have secure relatively diverse sources of gas, so I think the lights will stay on.

“But I am afraid it is likely in my view that high gas and high electricity prices will be sustained for the next three to four months.

“It is very difficult to see what the Government can do directly in this regard.”

Two fertiliser plants in Teesside and Cheshire have been forced to shut as a result of the sudden hike, prompting alarm from meat producers who need the carbon dioxide produced by these plants.

British Meat Processors Association chief executive Nick Allen said CO2 was essential to both the humane slaughter of livestock and extending the shelf-life of products.

He told Today: “If we haven’t got the CO2 supplies, on the packaging side that reduces the shelf-life of products going on the shelves at a time when we are really struggling because of all the transport problems.

“This has come as a huge shock, it has happened so quickly. I think everyone is outraged in the industry that these fertiliser plants can shut down without any warning whatsoever and suddenly take something which is so essential to the food supply chain off-stream just like that.

“We really need Government to step in now and actually do something.”








Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband
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Image:

PA)



Mr Kwarteng met senior executives from Ofgem, Centrica, National Grid, Energy UK, Octopus, Ovo, SSE, EDF, ScottishPower, Shell Energy, E.ON, Bulb and SGN on Saturday.

He tweeted: “Britain has a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand.

“We do not expect supply emergencies this winter.”

“Energy security is an absolute priority. We are working closely with @ofgem and gas operators to monitor supply and demand.”

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said the Government had to provide “secure, affordable energy supplies for businesses and families”.

“It is a fundamental failure of long-term Government planning over the last decade that we are so exposed and vulnerable as a country and it is businesses and consumers that are paying the price,” he said.

“If we had been investing at sufficient scale in diverse, secure, zero carbon energy supplies and making energy efficiency a much bigger priority, we would not be in such a precarious position.

“Ministers must recognise the severity of the cost of living crisis now facing families as a result of rising energy prices and their unfair tax rise and cancel the cut to Universal Credit.”


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