Bloomberg News

Cameron Says He’s Determined to Cut British Power, Gas Bills

October 17, 2011

(Updates with price increases in seventh paragraph.)

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he’s determined to do all he can to bring down energy bills for Britons, as he prepares for a meeting today with gas and electricity suppliers and consumer groups.

“Energy bills have increased by more than 100 pounds ($158) for most people since this summer,” Cameron wrote in an article for the consumer website www.moneysavingexpert.com. “These price rises couldn’t come at a worse time for consumers who are already feeling the pinch from rising petrol prices and the cost of the weekly shop.”

Today’s meeting, hosted by Cameron and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, will include representatives of Electricite de France SA, Centrica Plc, SSE Plc, EON AG, RWE AG and Iberdrola SA’s Scottish Power. The six companies supply 99 percent of Britain’s electricity and natural gas. Ofgem, the U.K. energy regulator, will also be at the talks.

Ofgem said last week that “radical” changes are needed to create a simpler, more competitive market for retail energy customers. The regulator and the government are seeking to encourage new companies to enter the market to put pressure on the “big six,” as well as promote smarter energy use.

U.K. inflation probably accelerated in September to a three-year high. Consumer prices rose 4.9 percent from a year earlier, compared with 4.5 percent in August, according to the median of 35 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. The Office for National Statistics will publish the data at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow in London.

Bringing Bills Down

“Today we are bringing together the industry, consumer groups and Ofgem for an energy summit that will focus on getting people the help they need to reduce their bills in time for this winter,” Cameron wrote in the article. “We are determined that everything that can be done will be done to help people bring their energy bills down.”

EDF was the last of the major energy companies to raise prices in September. The utility increased standard residential electricity tariffs by about 4.5 percent. This compares with an 11 percent rise in power bills announced by SSE in July and an 18 percent average increase in domestic gas rates by Centrica.

Npower, the U.K. unit of RWE, said it will freeze prices through March 2013 and end doorstep sales. Centrica extended an offer to install free insulation today and said it will “hold” energy prices for all variable rate customers through the winter.

“It’s an inconvenient truth that unit prices of energy are going to go up,” British Gas Managing Director Phil Bentley said in an interview on British Broadcasting Corp.’s Radio 4. “To get a return from new nuclear today is hugely expensive. Clean, green fuel costs more.”

--Editors: Alex Devine, Stephen Cunningham

To contact the reporters on this story: Eddie Buckle in Berlin at ebuckle@bloomberg.net; Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net


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