Gas Bill Crippling Industry'
Industrial companies plan to make a formal complaint to energy regulator Ofgem over rapidly rising British gas prices, which for year-long contracts are now in the 20p-21p a therm range compared with 10p-12p a year ago.
For a company such as steelmaker Corus, which uses 400m therms a year, this will mean an additional [pound]40m on its annual bill. Industry analysts say the high prices will eventually filter through to the domestic market and threaten government plans to create competition among domestic energy providers. Saturn Gas, a fledgling Liverpool-based gas supplier, was put into administrative receivership last week.
Manufacturers in the chemicals, steel, paper and cement sectors already seriously disadvantaged by the pound's strength against the euro say the massive increase in fuel costs will make it impossible for them to match the prices of continental companies.
The Energy Intensive Users Group, the umbrella organisation for the big consuming sectors, wrote to trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers last week asking him to intervene.
"This is a hell of a big increase. We can't really understand it,"said EIUG chairman Ian Blakey.
The group is also expected to make a formal protest to Ofgem, which seems equally at a loss to explain what has caused the drastic hike. A spokesman said: "Obviously we're taking the concerns about the price rises very seriously, but I don't think they can be pinned to one particular reason at the moment. …