Government holds urgent talks with energy firms over gas price rises

Business secretary in meetings with industry representatives as ex-head of Ofgem warns bills likely to remain high for rest of year

The government has said energy security is “an absolute priority” as the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, prepared to hold talks with energy industry representatives over concerns about a rise in wholesale gas prices. Kwarteng will speak to chief executives from energy suppliers and operators on Saturday to discuss the extent of the impact of surging prices, which have been blamed on high global demand, maintenance issues and lower solar and wind energy output.

He tweeted: “Today, I’ll be speaking to chief executives of the UK’s largest energy suppliers and operators to discuss the global gas situation. “Britain has a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand. We do not expect supply emergencies this winter.”

Dermot Nolan, a former head of Ofgem, the industry regulator, warned Britain was likely to face high energy prices for the rest of the year, adding he could not see a tangible solution the government might be able to pursue in order to bring down prices. Nolan said the increases were the result of depleted stocks following a cold season last winter, reduced supply from Russia, and increased demand in east and south-east Asia for liquefied natural gas.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It is not obvious to me what can be done in the very short run. Britain does have secure, relatively diverse sources of gas, so I think the lights will stay on. “But I am afraid it is likely in my view that high gas and high electricity prices will be sustained for the next three to four months. It is very difficult to see what the government can do directly in this regard.”