The Office of Fair Trading is to look into the pricing of sources of energy for those consumers who are not connected to the main gas supply and live off grid.
Energy users who use other sources of energy such as heating oil, LPG and sources of renewable energy may be beneficiaries of an investigation into the pricing of these sources of energy.
The OFT said it was looking into the pricing of these alternative sources of energy after discussions with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The assessment will take place soon so that any changes and suggestions can be discussed and possibly implemented before next winter.
Utility Exchange has reported recently on claims that heating oil supplies have been profiteering during the cold winter. Consequently the OFT will look at the whole country and assess whether competition is working and whether consumers are provided with competitive prices and clear information including terms and conditions.
The senior director of infrastructure at the OFT, Heather Clayton, said that around 2.5 million people were not connected to mains gas so “it is vital that the markets that supply them function as well as they possibly can”.
Enfinity, a solar park developer wants to create a solar farm on farmland outside Weston-Super-Mare.
The developer Enfinity wants to use farmland which is currently used to grow cereal crops, to create a solar park.
Enfinity is currently putting together plans for a 5MW solar park which would consist of 22,000 solar panels and take up 25 acres of land.
If the project gets planning permission for the park it would take around 2 months to build and could be fully operational by 2012.
Enfinity don’t think a full Environmental Impact Assessment is needed because they say the park is “unlikely to result in significant effects to the environment”.
The business development director of EnfinityUK, Bob Ayres, said “The project is being developed in line with the UK Government’s commitment to renewable energy and for the increased need for locally embedded micro-generation”.
While we know that fossil fuels are bad for the environment and as a country we need to develop more sources of renewable energy the question surely must be whether we should be using land used to grow crops to create solar parks? At the moment the cost of cereals is increasing as events around the world conspire to affect harvests. The amount of food we import has increased over the years so instead of relying on food imports shouldn’t we be encouraging farming in the UK so that we are not at the mercy of adverse weather events on the other side of the world?
Centrica, the owner of British Gas could see its profits increase by 20% by the end of February which is likely to result in a call for an investigation by the Competition Commission.
It is expected that Centrica will announce profits of around £2.1 billion at the end of February compared with profits of £1.68 billion a year ago. These expected profits look set to persuade the Competition Commission to investigate the biggest energy supplier in Britain.
Utility Exchange has reported that Ofgem is investigating recent price rises to ensure that energy suppliers are not abusing their position. British Gas raised its prices by 7% in October and there are concerns that these price rises (which came just before the coldest December for 30 years and resulted in a massive increase in consumption) are the reason for Centrica’s increase in profits.
Ofgem is due to report on its findings in March just after Centrica is set to announce its profits. Many analysts think that profits from business energy users and residential customers will have increased by over 20%. This is because Centrica has benefitted not just from a cold December but also from high wholesale gas prices. This has helped to increase profits from its gas production sites in the North Sea and the Irish Sea. Not only that, but Centrica has several power generation facilities which are also likely to see an increase in profits as a result of the cold weather.
It’s believed that Centrica’s results will compel Ofgem and the Competition Commission to act. The chief executive of Ofgem, Alistair Buchanan has rejected requests to scrutinise competition within the energy industry and has said in the past that the energy market was working properly.
People living in rural locations and using oil to heat their homes have been warned by police to keep a watchful eye on it as the number of heating oil thefts rise.
The cost of heating oil has risen by as much as 70% in the last few months making it a target for thieves and it’s people living in rural locations that tend to use oil to heat their homes because they don’t have access to mains gas. Consequently rural locations make it easy for thieves to operate.
Police have warned home owners to fit padlocks to their oil tanks and even consider fitting an alarm as thieves plumb new depths to find heating oil. They have reportedly taken to following oil tankers from their depot to see where they are delivering oil before going back later to steel it.
Thefts are affecting people in rural communities who don’t have access to mains gas, including householders, farmers and businesses. Insurers have said that the average claim for heating oil theft is £2,000 but speaking from the National Farmers’ Union, Ian Johnson said some insurers wouldn’t cover such thefts.
So, if you rely on oil for your heating, take police advice and fit a padlock and an alarm to your tank.
A European electricity supergrid is a step closer to becoming reality after the Government backed plans which would allow countries to share electricity.
The European supergrid would connect renewable energy schemes in the North, Baltic and Irish Seas. It would mean that electricity generated in one country could then be delivered via the supergrid, to another country.
The proposed supergrid would not only connect onshore renewable energy projects but also offshore projects such as wind farms.
The energy secretary Chris Huhne said “Europe’s future lies in green energy and Britain wants to work with other countries to make the most of the clean energy potential in and around the North Sea”.
The problem with renewable energy is that electricity generated from it can’t be stored and rather than wasting surplus electricity it’s hoped that any UK surplus could be exported to other countries such as Norway. There it would be used to power water pumps in hydro-electric power stations – another source of renewable energy.