The energy regulator has dismissed Boris Johnson’s claim that the gas shortage is a short-term problem, declining to predict how long the crisis will last.
The prime minister raised his eyebrows when he dismissed warnings of a cost-of-living crisis this winter, insisting that spikes in gas prices like problems with the food supply would soon be over.
But Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgems, declined to echo the prediction, saying MPs. It is extremely difficult to predict the future of gas prices.
He pointed to the unprecedented changes in recent months, which had seen the wholesale price increase almost 6 times over the past year. Warning: we are in unprecedented territory, I’m afraid.
There were many, many factors beyond the UK’s control, such as increased international demand and supply restrictions, an emergency House of Commons affairs committee investigation said .
It’s very, very difficult to predict how long this will last, Mr Brearley said, warning that ending the supply squeeze was not something we at Ofgem would trust.
But the managing director played down fears of a fuel failure in the UK by saying: You can’t rule anything out, but we have a resilient system that customers can count on.
Meanwhile, the boss of industry body Energy UK has revealed that he warned the government and Ofgem that the sector was fragile at least two years ago.
Managing Director Emma Pinchbeck said she had warned that even well-managed suppliers could go bankrupt, due to loopholes in the UK energy market.
I accepted this position a year ago. When I was hired the President of Energy UK said your biggest challenge would be the vulnerability of the retail market, she told the committee.
And I know that, for a year or more before that, my team had pleaded with the regulator and the government that the sector is fragile.
There is a short-term crisis here, which is in some ways beyond our control, and it’s to do with gas prices, but it has been exacerbated and arguably caused by our regulatory design.
Ms Pinchbeck called on regulators and politicians to stop firing suppliers when they say the way the market is designed is flawed.
Mr Brearley declined to give a figure on the number of customers with a supplier now at risk of collapse.
We expect a large number of customers to be affected. We have already seen hundreds of thousands of affected customers, it could well go far beyond, said the head of Ofgem.
It’s very difficult for me to put a number on that. It is not uncommon for suppliers to exit the market. I think what’s different this time around is this drastic shift in costs that these vendors are facing.
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