UK has plans to protect consumers from soaring gas prices -business minister

·2-min read
Britain's Alok Sharma, president of this year's United Nations COP26 walks outside Downing Street in London

(Corrects name of energy regulator to Ofgem in first paragraph)

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain has plans in place to protect the market and consumers from soaring global gas prices, business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said on Sunday following a meeting with the head of energy regulator Ofgem.

A jump in gas prices has already forced several domestic energy suppliers out of business and has shut fertiliser plants that also produce carbon dioxide, used to stun animals before slaughter and prolong the shelf-life of food.

"If a supplier fails, Ofgem will ensure customers’ gas and electricity supply will continue uninterrupted," Kwarteng said on Twitter.

"If a supplier of last resort is not possible, a special administrator would be appointed by Ofgem and the Govt. The objective is to continue supply to customers until the company can be rescued or customers moved to new suppliers."

Kwarteng said he had also met with the Chief Executive of CF Industries, the country's largest domestic supplier of CO2.

"We discussed the pressures the business is facing and explored possible ways forward to secure vital supplies, including to our food and energy industries," he said.

Kwarteng held emergency talks with executives from National Grid, Centrica and EDF on Saturday and is due to host a roundtable with energy industry and consumer groups on Monday.

The government has been moved to act after low gas storage levels, decreased supplies from Russia, demand from Asia, low renewables output and nuclear maintenance outages combined to more than triple European gas prices this year, hitting record highs.

Earlier minister Alok Sharma told Sky News the government was confident that soaring prices would not result in a risk to supply and that measures were in place to protect consumers from sudden price increases.

As well as domestic gas production in the North Sea, Britain also imports gas via pipeline from Norway, as well as the Netherlands and Belgium.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Alexander Smith and Gareth Jones)

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