Gas price crisis: Kwarteng holds urgent talks as fears grow of soaring UK energy bills

Energy price cap: OFGEM chief outlines rise in rate for customers

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The rise has been blamed on low gas storage levels, decreased supplies from Russia, demand from Asia, low renewables output and nuclear maintenance outages. As a result, farming and food industries supplies are being disrupted, with chiefs warning consumers could see a shortage of British chicken and pork on shop shelves before too long.

Kwasi Kwarteng is meeting executives from National Grid, Centrica, EDF and regulator Ofgem to discuss the issue and said he was confident there was enough capacity to more than meet demand.

Mr Kwarteng said: “Energy security is an absolute priority.

“We are working closely with Ofgem and gas operators to monitor supply and demand.”

The issue is particularly important since retailers and food manufacturers normally start preparing for Christmas, their busiest time of the year, in September.

Consumer groups and opposition politicians have warned that some customers and businesses will struggle to pay higher bills.

Daisy Cooper MP, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats said the UK Government needed to treat the matter “with a matter of urgency stressing “consumers needed to be “protected.” 

Ed Miliband MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, added: “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. 

“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.

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“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.”

But Dermot Nolan, a former head of the regulator Ofgem warned Britain is likely to face high energy prices for the rest of the year.

Mr Nolan said was not clear what the government could do to affect market rates – meaning they will remain a focal point in the run-up to the COP26 climate conference in Scotland in November, where governments will seek to agree on new rules to suppress emissions.

Meanwhile, the owner of the UK’s biggest poultry supplier admitted said Christmas dinners could be “cancelled” due to the shortage of carbon dioxide gas (CO2). 

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The sharp rise in prices has meant two large fertiliser plants in Teesside and Cheshire – which produce CO2 as a by-product – have shut, cutting supply to the food industry.

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, says this, combined with a shortage of workers, will affect the supply of Turkeys for Christmas.

CO2 is essential to the humane slaughter of livestock, extends the shelf-life of products and is vital to cool systems for refrigeration purposes, industry leaders have said.

Ian Wright, the chief executive of the UK Food and Drink Federation added the Government needs to make an “intervention” on gas prices.

An Ofgem spokesman said: “Currently wholesale gas prices are at a record high, driven by international supply and demand factors.

“This is undoubtedly putting pressure on companies – with four leaving the market over the last few weeks.

“Ofgem cannot comment on whether further suppliers will fail, but we have the systems and processes in place to ensure that customer needs are always met.”

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