UK energy price cap will be a tricky balancing act

By Peter Stewart 26 April 2017
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Electricity pylons in the UK. Theresa May's government will struggle to reduce carbon emissions if it introduces a domestic energy price cap. (National Grid) Electricity pylons in the UK. Theresa May's government will struggle to reduce carbon emissions if it introduces a domestic energy price cap. (National Grid)

Ironically, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to cap electricity and gas prices resembles the pledge made by former Labour leader Ed Miliband in 2014 – a policy that was derided by the Conservative party at the time. The Tories are expected to include a commitment in their manifesto for the June general election to introduce a mechanism to cap prices that will respond to market conditions. It would be administered by Ofgem, the energy regulator.

May has departed from the traditional pro-market stance of previous Conservative governments, including that of her predecessor David Cameron and his chancellor, George Osborne. "We must set the market right," she said of the energy sector last year. May has styled herself as the champion of ‘ordinary people’ and has been highly critical of the lack of transparency in domestic electricity prices. Shares in British energy suppliers such as Centrica and SSE fell by as much as 5% after ministers said the Conservative election manifesto would include pledges to control energy prices. Household energy bills have doubled over the past decade, and five of the country’s ‘big six’ power and gas suppliers have raised their prices this year.

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