Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Energy firms could be forced to put rivals' cheaper deals on bills

Energy companies could be forced to display rivals' cheaper prices on their
bills under plans to be considered by the Government.
Ministers want consumers to be given clear information on gas and
electricity bills to help them save

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne revealed the Government
hopes to come to an agreement with suppliers which could see them forced to
list their own cheapest tariffs and even those offered by rivals.

In a pitch to position the coalition as the greenest Government the country
has seen, Mr Huhne also warned Liberal Democrat activists they must accept
nuclear power - telling them "a deal is a deal" - but set himself on
collision course with conservationists by calling for offshore wind farms to
be built "again and again round Britain's coasts".

He also announced a plan to create almost 250,000 jobs in green industries
to offset the economic "drag anchor" of budget cuts in a "green deal" which
was one of the Lib Dems' key pledges at the General Election.

Thousands of workers will modernise some 26 million homes to make them more
energy efficient as part of the coalition's ambition to be the "greenest
Government ever".

Speaking before his main address to the conference, Mr Huhne said energy
companies would never again be able to impose "outrageous" price rises on
consumers, with plans to ensure they are told sooner about price rises.

The Government will seek to reach a voluntary deal with suppliers to provide
more information about cheaper tariffs on bills, although Ministers have not
ruled out forcing companies to act if necessary.

"We need to provide consumers with more information so if they've got an
energy supplier who's frankly charging a little more than they ought to
compared with other ones in the market, then it makes it easier to switch,
because they can actually see on the bill, I hope, the other deals that
might be on offer," he said.

Audrey Gallacher, head of energy policy at watchdog Consumer Focus, said:
"Getting energy suppliers to give consumers more warning of price rises is
something we've called on Ofgem to do and this announcement is a step in the
right direction.

"However, there is no justification for price hikes this winter. If people
are going to pay more for their energy, it is absolutely right they know in
advance, not up to two months later."

Under the green deal policy, companies will pay up front to insulate homes,
with householders paying back from the energy savings that will result.

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