Gas crisis: 'Customers will be protected if energy companies go under'

19 September 2021, 22:46 | Updated: 19 September 2021, 22:50

The Business Secretary is holding crunch talks with industry leaders.
The Business Secretary is holding crunch talks with industry leaders. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Consumers will be protected if small energy companies go under amid the gas crisis, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has vowed.

It comes after Mr Kwarteng held talks with the chief executive of regulator Ofgem.

He explained that a special administrator would be appointed to ensure power supplies were maintained if further market failures occurred.

"Unfortunately, small energy suppliers are facing pressures due to sudden increases in global gas prices," the Business Secretary tweeted.

He went on to say: "If a supplier fails, Ofgem will ensure customers’ gas and electricity supply will continue uninterrupted.

"Our priority is to protect consumers. If a Supplier of Last Resort is not possible, a special administrator would be appointed by Ofgem and the Government.

"The objective is to continue supply to customers until the company can be rescued or customers moved to new suppliers."

It comes after four small energy suppliers have already been forced to close in recent weeks.

Read more: Christmas dinners could be stuffed in gas crisis: More urgent talks to be held
Read more: Winter gas supply not cause for 'immediate concern', Business Secretary confirms

'I don't think people understand the impact this will have.'

Mr Kwarteng acknowledged it was a "worrying time for businesses and consumers", but said he remained confident energy supplies would be maintained.

"Energy security will always be our absolute priority," he said.

"The UK benefits from having a diverse range of gas supply sources - both domestic, and from reliable import partners such as Norway.

"I am confident security of supply can be maintained under a wide range of scenarios."

Read more: Scramble to avoid food shortages: Government in crisis talks as gas prices soar

Meat shortages imminent due to lack of CO2

Mr Kwarteng also met with Tony Will - the global chief executive of CF Industries, which is the UK's biggest supplier of CO2.

The company last week shut down two major fertiliser plants in Teesside and Cheshire, citing the high cost of natural gas.

Following their meeting, Mr Kwarteng said they had "explored possible ways forward to secure vital supplies, including to our food and energy industries".

The Business Secretary previously held talks with a number of industry leaders over the CO2 shortage on Saturday, saying winter gas supply was not a cause for "immediate concern".

He is set to host a roundtable with the energy industry and consumer groups on Monday, followed by meetings with people across the government, to find a solution to the crisis.

Read more: Rising energy costs set to 'make life hard for many,' Octopus Energy chief tells LBC

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It comes after concerns that Christmas could be in jeopardy due to the shortage too.

The owner of the UK’s biggest poultry supplier said the gas shortage, along with a shortage of workers, would affect the supply of Christmas turkeys.

Ranjit Singh Boparan - owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group - said: "The supply of Bernard Matthews turkeys this Christmas was already compromised as I need to find 1,000 extra workers to process supplies.

"Now with no CO2 supply, Christmas will be cancelled.

"The CO2 issue is a massive body blow and puts us at breaking point, it really does - that's poultry, beef, pork, as well as the wider food industry.

"Without CO2, the bottom line is there is less throughput and with our sector already compromised with lack of labour, this potentially tips us over the edge."