The business secretary has said that customers will be protected if small energy companies are left on the brink of collapse as a result of rising gas prices, amid reports they could close within at least four days.
Kwasi Quarteng held further talks with regulator Offgame on Sunday and said he may appoint a special administrator to ensure that power supplies remain in place in the event of a further failure in the market.
The BBC reported that the four firms had appealed to larger firms to step down amid concerns about energy supplies to one million customers as smaller providers could be at risk of collapse.
Mr Quarteng is set to hold further talks with energy industry representatives and consumer groups on Monday as they grapple with a rise in gas prices with wholesale costs rising by 250 percent since January.
Four smaller energy companies have already closed and after his meeting with Offgame chief executive Jonathan Brearley on Sunday, Mr Quarteng said he was assured that if another failed supply would continue uninterrupted.
“Our priority is to protect consumers. If a supplier of last resort is not possible, a special administrator will be appointed by Offgame and the government,” he said in a series of tweets.
“The aim is to continue supplying customers until the company can be salvaged or customers can be transferred to new suppliers.”
The rise in gas prices has been attributed to a number of factors, including a cold winter that caused stocks to plummet, high demand for liquefied natural gas from Asia and lack of supply from Russia.
Mr Quarteng acknowledged it was a “worrisome time for businesses and consumers”, but said he was confident the energy supply would remain in place.
“Energy security will always be our absolute priority,” he said. “The UK benefits from a variety of gas supply sources – both domestic, and from reliable import partners such as Norway.
“I believe the security of supply can be maintained in a wide variety of scenarios.”
Mr Quarteng’s reassurance to customers came amid fresh warnings from the food and beverage industry of shortages on shelves as a result of the impact of price hikes.
The increase has resulted in dramatic cuts in the supply of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is needed for a range of products from poultry and pig products to packaging used in salads.
Mr Quarteng also met on Sunday with Tony Will, the global chief executive officer of CF Industries, the largest supplier of CO2 to the UK.
The company last week closed two major fertilizer plants in Teesside and Cheshire, where CO2 is produced as a by-product, citing the high cost of natural gas.
After their meeting, Mr Quarteng said he discussed the pressures facing businesses and “explored possible ways to secure vital supplies, including in our food and energy industries”.
However, Ian Wright, chief executive officer of the Food and Drink Federation, warned that the impact of the shortage could be felt at stores in a matter of days.
“At the end of the coming week and next week we are going to see really serious consequences,” he told the BBC.
“I think by the middle of next week – 10 days time – we’re going to be growing fast for poultry production, for pig producers and probably in other areas – so a really big hit in packaging materials and bakeries and beverages. will see. “
PA. Additional reporting by
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /