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Sat Oct 19, 2013, 04:21 AM

War of words between Ministers and Britain's energy suppliers over rising costs

(There has been) a marked escalation in the war of words between Ministers and Britain's energy suppliers over the rising cost in household gas and electricity bills...

... Insiders at the Department for Energy and Climate Change added that ministers are confused why British Gas argues that delivering social and environmental policies accounts for 50 of the 107 increase announced on standard tariffs.

A week ago Scottish & Southern Energy claimed the same policies account for 15 of the 106 increase it announced. One insider said: "Customers seem to be paying an awful lot now for costs British Gas may incur next year."

The fallout from the price rise continued on Friday as price comparison websites revealed a spike in the number of people wanting to switch energy suppliers...

/... http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/household-bills/10389937/Energy-secretary-demands-British-Gas-meeting-over-unjustifiable-energy-price-rise.html

... Co-Operative Energy said (their) increase equated to an extra 4.78 a month for an average dual fuel customer, who it said would now pay 1,315 a year - but this was still 87 a year less than a British Gas bill, according to figures from the owner of the latter, Centrica...

... While Scottish Power, E.ON, EDF and npower are yet to announce any rises ahead of the coming winter, British Gas confirmed on Thursday it was hiking electricity bills by 10.4% and gas tariffs by 8.4%, affecting 7.8 million households. The previous week, SSE announced it was hitting seven million customers with an 8.2% rise on average.

Both blamed a combination of Government green levies and rising energy costs for the increases.

British Gas said the profits it made were crucial in funding investments but Centrica also paid 816m shareholder dividends last year, a rise of 7%. Co-operative Energy is wholly-owned by customers and shares out surplus profits among members...

/... http://news.sky.com/story/1156405/energy-bills-small-firms-challenge-big-six

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/chris-westons-2million-bonus-crime-2468128 [/center]

Energy prices: keeping the lights on
The need to reduce fuel poverty must be balanced against the dangerous surge of opposition to green levies
The Guardian, Friday 18 October 2013 21.42 BST

The cost of energy has captured the political headlines this week. Not surprising when two of the big six companies announced price rises of between 8% and 10%. But the bills that will be landing on every householder's doormat shortly are only the (very) sharp end of a great political dilemma. Now the failure to get to grips with the big strategic issues of decarbonising supply while keeping the lights on and the costs down has left politicians facing the risk that any action to soften the blow for consumers is likely to make tackling the strategic decisions more difficult. There is a dangerous surge of opposition to green levies, while families on tight budgets face real hardship.

The coalition's answer to voters' mounting anger is to increase the number of suppliers and force the big six to offer every customer their cheapest tariff. Labour, in a significant and sensible retreat from its former enthusiasm for deregulation, proposes a limited price freeze. Contrary to its critics' cries heralding the return of state socialism, its purpose is to create a space to "reset" the market. That means introducing an alternative to the current model of vertical integration, which allows the big six companies who generate, trade and supply energy the scope to be less than transparent about where they're making their profits. The companies' response to Ed Miliband's proposal was to warn that they might not be able to keep the lights on. That makes it even more important that the regulator, Ofgem, is reformed and strengthened (or, if necessary, replaced) so that it becomes a robustly independent body that has the muscle to stand up to the suppliers and possibly even to limit price rises the way that Ofwat, for example, has the power to do in the water industry.

This is a matter of real urgency. It's two years since a report from the LSE academic John Hills on the impact of fuel poverty defined as households spending more than 10% of their budget on energy found that without some intervention, by 2016 more than 8 million people would be having to trade off living at lower temperatures against paying for other necessities. The report estimated that, each winter, fuel poverty is to blame for up to one-tenth of the 27,000 excess deaths, as well as uncounted costs in doctor and hospital visits. In this context, the energy secretary Ed Davey's advice on Newsnight on Thursday night to put on a jumper is absurdly distant from an adequate answer. It's the personal equivalent of the coalition's green deal, where loans are advanced by the private sector and costs recouped through savings in bills have, according to figures released last month, been taken up by just 12 households. This is a pathetic response to the need to get serious about reducing demand. It doesn't take much to make a difference: basic measures of cavity wall and loft insulation can take hundreds of pounds off fuel bills. Successive governments have invested too little in overly complex and very limited schemes, when what's needed is a radical programme of retrofitting the country's housing stock.

But the most complex challenge is to achieve market reforms that incentivise a decarbonised supply and that means paying for new nuclear as well as renewable energy. At the moment, the green component of domestic energy bills is predicted to be around 40% by 2030. Replacing coal-fired generation means big private-sector investment of the sort George Osborne appears, controversially, to have secured from China this week and that won't happen unless returns look assured. Yet assuring returns for nuclear that would extend for up to 40 years could turn into a public-spending albatross if cheaper energy sources like shale gas come on line. At the moment, too much of the risk of getting it wrong falls on consumers. Yet when energy is a question of national security, it is time for a body providing impartial, expert analysis an energy commission.

/... http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/18/energy-prices-keeping-lights-on

BEIJING | Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:00pm BST (Reuters) - Britain opened the door to Chinese investors taking majority stakes in future nuclear plants on Thursday as Chancellor George Osborne signed a deal aimed at helping find the billions of pounds needed to replace the country's ageing reactors.

On a visit to China, Osborne said the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on nuclear cooperation that included roles for British companies in China's nuclear sector, which is the fastest growing in the world.

"While any initial Chinese stake in a nuclear power project is likely to be a minority stake, over time stakes in subsequent new power stations could be majority stakes," a statement from the UK Treasury said...

/... http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/10/17/uk-china-britain-nuclear-idUKBRE99G07520131017

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