The CEO of energy regulator Ofgem told MPs that more energy companies are likely to go out of business due to soaring energy prices.
Jonathan Brearley told the Business, Energy and Industry Strategy Committee that Ofgem was anticipating any eventuality and that there was a lot of pressure on the industry right now due to rising energy prices.
Q: What gives the Prime Minister the confidence to say this will be a temporary problem?
Brearley says history shows the price spikes are disappearing. But that’s not something Ofgem would rely on – he has to plan for a whole range of scenarios.
Q: How important is the current gas crisis compared to the shocks of recent years?
Brearley says it’s a different kind of change. The sector has already faced shocks, including the Covid crisis.
But the change in the price of gas is something that has not been seen before at this rate.
Unfortunately, when you see the costs change like that, it will eventually trickle down to customers.
And many suppliers are under enormous pressure, due to the drastic change in their cost base.
Q: So how many suppliers are at risk?
Brearley says the industry has seen companies pull out before. But what’s different this time around is the dramatic change in costs.
Five energy providers have gone out of business in recent months, more collapsed earlier in the year – and Ofgem expects more to be unable to cope with the circumstances, Brearley said.
But he doesn’t predict how it will play out.
Q: How many more and how many customers?
Brearley says Ofgem foresees a range of scenarios:
We expect a large number of customers to be affected. We have already seen hundreds of thousands of affected customers. It can go way above.
Q: So millions of customers could be affected?
Certainly a large number of customers, repeats Brearley, but he will not anticipate any ongoing process.
Q: Will it only be small suppliers, or will the big ones be affected as well?
Brearley refuses to make predictions – pointing out that the industry has seen the price of gas jump six-fold.
As a prudent regulator, we predicted all scenarios, he adds.
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