In a rousing speech at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Birmingham this week, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne announced his intention to “get tough” with Britain’s leading energy suppliers.
Not long after his Labour counterparts suggested he had been “standing idly by while energy companies raise their prices way above inflation”, Mr Huhne informed fellow Liberal Democrats that the time had come to act in the interests of energy consumers.
Of course, many households in the UK might argue that the time to wage war on the country’s leading energy suppliers had arrived some time ago; nevertheless, Mr Huhne’s comments may signal a change in fortune for the millions of Britons trapped in fuel poverty.
The Energy Secretary suggested the introduction of more simplified tariffs alongside a system that ensures consumers are made aware of cheaper prices from different suppliers. Mr Huhne also hinted that Ofgem could receive enhanced regulatory powers.
Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary, Meg Hiller, derided Mr Huhne’s promises as little more than aimless “tinkering”.
Referring to the Energy Secretary, Ms Hiller said: “His own plans to reform the energy market do nothing of the sort and will exclude many potential new entrants… Chris Huhne is fiddling with an already broken system”.
The cost of electricity and gas central heating have increased markedly over recent years, with most of the leading suppliers increasing prices last month despite posting record profits.
Donna Hume, an Energy Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, noted: “It’s right that people should be able to switch tariffs and companies more easily, but this won’t ease householders’ pain in the long run, with all six major energy firms putting up prices and the cost of gas rocketing.
“Behind closed doors, the energy companies are attempting to lock us into expensive gas power plants for the next two decades instead of investing in the home-grown clean energy”.