Energy retail

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Rishi Sunak has pledged to provide extra support for households with their energy bills if he wins the Conservative leadership contest as Cornwall Insight forecast the price cap will peak at more than £4,400 in April next year. The former chancellor of the exchequer, who is lagging behind foreign secretary Liz Truss in the two-horse race, made the commitment after Truss recently rejected “handouts” for households struggling to pay their bills.
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Allowing suppliers to recover additional costs due to the energy crisis could result in the price cap increasing to more than £4,200, an industry analyst has predicted. Martin Young of Investec issued the forecast following Ofgem’s announcement it would update the price cap methodology to include an allowance for backwardation costs, which suppliers will recover over a six-month period.
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Household energy debt has hit an all-time high of £1.3 billion - a more than 150% increase on September last year - new figures from Uswitch.com have revealed. The figures are extrapolated from a weighted survey of 2,000 UK adults, which found 23% customers - equating to 6 million households - owe an average of £206 to their energy retailer.
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As Ofgem presses ahead with plans to protect customer money from unsustainable business practices, a rift has emerged in the energy sector. On the one hand Octopus Energy has concerns about the impact of costs to consumers, while Centrica believes it will be shareholders who will shoulder the burden. Adam John explores the division.
Analysis
Leading energy retailers have set out their arguments for reform of the market, as part of Utility Week’s Energy Reset campaign. Eon, EDF, Octopus, Scottish Power and So Energy, among others, share their recommendations for overhauling energy efficiency, reshaping the price cap, protecting competition while ensuring no-one has a “free bet” and making the wholesale market fit for a green grid.
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This new report looks at how energy retailers can re-invigorate face-to-face engagement in an uncertain world to forge closer relationships with consumers, offer support and build trust.
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The government has announced plans to completely exempt heavy industries such as steel, glass and cement from green levies in a bid to curb the impact of spiralling electricity bills on such firms. Under the existing rules governing the Energy Intensive Industries Exemption Scheme, such heavy power users enjoy a discount of up to 85% on indirect costs of the Contracts for Difference, Renewables Obligation and Feed In Tariff subsidy schemes.
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As each week brings dire forecasts of what energy bills will look like come winter, a frantic discussion has gripped the sector on how to help consumers. Put simply, immediate action is required if we are to avoid a cataclysm for the poorest households. Is a social tariff, favoured by several key players, the solution? If so, what will it look like and how soon could it be implemented? Adam John asks the experts.
Analysis
Boris Johnson has stated it will be up to his successor to make any significant decisions on further support for people struggling to pay spiralling energy bills. The outgoing prime minister, along with chancellor of the exchequer Nadhim Zahawi and business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, met with energy industry leaders at a roundtable to discuss potential solutions to the current crisis.
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Eon has reported a rise in first half profits from its retail arm in the UK following a huge increase in gas sales on the wholesale market.  It said cost savings from the ongoing restructuring of the business also contributed to a 59% increase in adjusted EBITDA to €352 million (£296 million).
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People living in poorly insulated homes face paying a nearly £2,000 premium on their energy bills when this winter’s price cap hike comes into force, new analysis shows. The warning comes as pressure grows on politicians to act soon to mitigate the worst impacts of impending energy bill hikes, with fresh speculation about expanding the scope of the windfall tax.
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Centrica has signed a £7 billion agreement to purchase 1 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually from US firm Delfin Midstream over a 15-year period beginning in 2026. It comes after the British Gas owner struck a £4 billion deal with Norwegian energy company Equinor in June to deliver an additional 1 billion cubic meters of gas to the UK for each of the next three winters.
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In Utility Week's latest roundup of the weekend news, George Eustice calls on water companies to introduce more hosepipe bans as the UK faces drought, and the cost to taxpayers and billpayers of supplier failures is explored.
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Ofgem has delayed its planned consultation on introducing an allowance in the price cap to recover bad debt to allow it more time to consider the impact of the government’s energy bill support packages. The regulator has also outlined plans to delay its decision on the true-up process for Covid-19 until February next year after several suppliers raised concerns about the methodology used.
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Ofgem has decided to amend the price cap methodology to reflect the return of Contracts for Difference (CfD) payments to suppliers as a result of high wholesale energy prices. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said its analysis suggests the change could cut energy bills by £25 this winter and £45 next winter if prices remain at current levels.
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The next price cap coming into effect in October will include an additional £41 uplift to reflect wholesale costs incurred by suppliers as a result of customers shifting onto standard variable tariffs, Ofgem has announced. The regulator said the adjustment is necessary to prevent further supplier failures, the costs of which would be borne by consumers.
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Ofgem has confirmed the price cap will be updated every three months in a bid to bolster market stability following a year of spiralling wholesale energy costs. The regulator made a series of announcements in which it also confirmed its decision to extend the cap until the end of 2023.
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Whoever wins the Conservative leadership race will face immediate pressure to deliver on the promise of more secure, affordable, green energy. Sue Ferns, of the Prospect union, insists that this must start with a clear delivery plan that provides certainty for investors, an expanded skills pipeline, and good green jobs.
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