UK energy minister confident the lights will stay on this winter

Kwasi Kwarteng says government will not lift cap on energy prices despite soaring costs

Britain’s Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said he is as certain as he can be that the UK’s energy supplies will not be interrupted this winter.

Mr Kwarteng sought to play down fears that wide-ranging supply chain problems in Britain, which recently triggered a run on fuel, will cause chaos in the colder months.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, he promised that ministers would not lift a cap on consumer energy prices despite surging wholesale costs.

He said half of Britain’s gas supplies last year were from domestic sources, with another 30 per cent coming from Norway, which he said had given assurances about supplies.

“I’m very committed and convinced that we will have full energy supply,” he said. “I’m as certain as I could be.

“We will have a diversity of gas suppliers I’ve described. And also within the energy mix itself, the electricity generation itself, we’ve got renewables, we’ve got a slice of nuclear power as well.”

Asked whether people should wrap up more warmly to save fuel, he said: “I think people should be sensible. My job as an energy minister isn’t to tell people how many layers of clothing they should wear.”

Record gas prices, driven by the global rebound from the pandemic, have led to the consumer price cap rising by £139 ($189) in August. It is adjusted twice a year.

Fuel ran dry at many petrol stations after fears over a shortage of lorry drivers led motorists to queue up for supplies.

The spiralling costs come amid concerns of a severe cold and flu season to compound the ongoing effects of Covid-19.

Health chiefs say that more people are likely to get flu this winter because fewer people acquired natural immunity during the months of lockdown.

Some energy providers have lobbied Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to raise the cap because of the precarious situation.

But “despite some pushing me to lift the cap, I am absolutely clear it is here to stay and will remain at the same level throughout winter,” Mr Kwarteng said.

Commercial energy users, including in fuel-intensive industries such as steel manufacturing, are concerned that high costs could push them out of business this winter.

Industry bosses held talks with Mr Kwarteng on Friday in which they called for emergency measures to support companies.

But the minister said on Sunday that no new subsidies were on the table and declined to support a price cap for commercial users.

The broader supply chain problems linked to the pandemic and Brexit have led to concerns that Christmas will be marred by empty supermarket shelves.

Mr Johnson has sought to portray the problems as an inevitable short-term shock while Britain rebuilds its economy after Brexit.

He promised at the Conservative Party conference that “Christmas is going to be considerably better this year than last year,” when Britain was under strict coronavirus restrictions.

Updated: October 10th 2021, 1:14 PM
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