Justin Tomlinson MP

Justin Tomlinson MP

MP For North Swindon

Swindon Advertiser Column - No Need To Panic About Gas Supply

As residents may have seen, the price of gas and its effect on energy prices has been in focus in the news this week.

I want to reassure residents that there is sufficient capacity to meet demand, and gas supplies continue to operate reliably. There is no suggestion that the gas supply to the UK will be compromised, or that there are any risks of power cuts.

There are a number of reasons for the rise in gas prices – the uptick in demand as the world economy re-opens following COVID-19; problems getting Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to Europe due to demand across the world; extreme weather events in the US making shipping LNG more difficult; and essential maintenance projects rescheduled from 2020 due to coronavirus coinciding with necessary scheduled projects in 2021.

The gas market is crucial to the UK’s energy supply because of its significance in heating, industry and power generation –meaning, unfortunately, higher wholesale gas prices will lead to higher wholesale power prices. However, the Government is working to help low income and fuel poor households.

Firstly, the Energy Price Cap will protect millions of customers from the sudden increases in global gas prices this winter. In addition to this, the Warm Home Discount will provide eligible households with a £140 discount on their energy bill. Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments will also help ensure that those most vulnerable are better able to heat their homes over the colder months.

Earlier this year the Government reached an agreement with energy suppliers to support those most in need during the disruption caused by COVID-19, and this agreement remains in place this winter. Support from energy suppliers could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary, while disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended. So, anyone in financial distress during this time should talk to their energy supplier, who will be able to discuss personal circumstances and consider options to help.

The agreement also covers customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit. They can also speak to their supplier about options to help - this could include nominating a third party for credit top ups, having a discretionary fund added to their credit, or being sent a pre-loaded top up card so that their supply is not interrupted.

More broadly, we have also seen a number of the smaller energy suppliers cease trading as they are unable to absorb the rise in wholesale gas prices.

As per the Citizen’s Advice. For those impacted customers you will continue to receive gas or electricity. Ofgem will move your account to a new supplier. While you wait to hear from your new supplier: check your current balance and - if possible - download any bills and take a photo of your meter reading. If you pay by direct debit, there is no need to cancel it straight away. If you are in credit, your money is protected, and you'll be paid back. If you were in debt to the old supplier, you'll still have to pay the money back to your new supplier instead.

Rightly the Government is working with Ofgem and suppliers to make sure as wholesale prices settle, competition and choice remains.

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