Cold 'no excuse' for gas bill hike

Gas flameThe Government has warned energy companies the cold snap is "no excuse" for putting up electricity and gas bills.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said predictions of big increases in bills as a result of the current "tightness" in the gas market brought about by wintry conditions were "wildly wrong".
"This is a market, so when there is lots of cold weather in north-western Europe, naturally the gas market becomes a bit tighter, there is more competition for the gas and because we have a market, the price goes up a little bit.

"But over a year, because we have probably the most diverse, most well-traded gas market - arguably in the world - our gas prices are on average through a year lower than the big EU 15 countries.

"But of course that is on average over the year. You may get a little increase where we are above the average for a short period, that is what is happening at the moment.

"Some of the reporting saying there is going to be a big increase in consumer bills because of this particular short-term tightness in the market, I think again are wildly wrong.

"We will make it clear ... to energy suppliers that this just is a temporary cold snap, there is no excuse for putting up energy bills. They should always minimise the impact of these types of things on consumer bills."

Mr Davey repeated Government assurances over supplies, saying Britain is not running out of gas. He said there was a "very diverse" gas supply in the UK with about half straight from the North Sea - in winter a third - and three pipelines from Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands.

He added that liquefied natural gas was being shipped from many countries, in particular from Qatar. "We have lots of different supplies of gas, storage is just a small part of that. I don't think people should be worried in the slightest," he said.

Mr Davey has been talking about supplies to officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, industry regulator Ofgem and the chief executive of National Grid. He said: "We have been monitoring the situation very closely and all that monitoring, all those discussions, give me great reassurance. But of course we will watch it."
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