Massive gas price rise could last as customers fear soaring energy bills

22 September 2021, 11:45

Consumers fear soaring energy bills
Consumers fear soaring energy bills. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

It is unclear if the huge rise in gas prices is temporary as customers face soaring energy bills, the head of Ofgem has warned.

Fears of much bigger bills and more energy firms going bust have emerged since the cost of gas skyrocketed throughout 2021.

The head of energy regulator Ofgem, Jonathan Brearley, told MPs on Wednesday that "well above" hundreds of thousands of customers could be affected as the crisis continues.

Asked at the House of Commons' business committee about Boris Johnson's suggestions that the rise in prices will be temporary, Mr Brearley said: "It's extremely difficult to predict the future of the gas price and we have seen some unprecedented change in the last six months."

Read more: Gas price crisis: Taxpayers 'face multibillion pound bill' bailing out energy firms

Read more: Martin Lewis' stark warning on 'outrageous' gas price rise

He told MPs: "When you see a spike like this, history has suggested that those spikes go away.

"All I'd say right now is that's not something we, Ofgem, would rely on simply because we have to plan for a whole range of scenarios."

Blame for this year's hike in gas costs has been attributed to a cold winter which depleted stocks, high demand for liquefied natural gas in Asia and reduced supplies from Russia.

Customers whose energy firm goes bust will be transferred to another provider by Ofgem.

But there are worries that customers face big rises in fuel bills, while the Government insists it will keep the price cap in place.

"We do expect a large number of customers to be affected, we've already seen hundreds of thousands of customers affected, that may well go well above that," Mr Brearley said.

"It's very hard for me to put a figure on it."

MPs were amused when the energy regulator boss, speaking remotely, was plunged into darkness when the lights went off in the room he was video-conferencing MPs from.

Politicians were quick to joke about the coincidence, which appeared to be an issue with the automatic lights instead of Ofgem's power being cut.