Gas supplies: No need to be concerned about shortage this winter, says minister

·3 min read
Cop26 president Alok Sharma  (PA Media)
Cop26 president Alok Sharma (PA Media)

A Government minister has said that the rise in gas prices will not lead to a shortage or price hikes in the UK this winter.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has been holding talks with the energy sector following a sharp rise in the wholesale price of natural gas.

Following the meetings, Cop26 President Alok Sharma said the public should be reassured there is no immediate cause for concern.

“The clear message that is coming out of this is that there is no immediate concern in terms of supply, we don’t see any risks going into the winter,” he told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme.

“People should be confident that the supplies will be there and that we will be protecting them in terms of price rises. But of course we are not complacent about this.”

Industry group Oil & Gas UK said wholesale prices for gas are up 250% since January - with a 70% rise since August.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reported that in 2020, 60% of the UK’s natural gas supply was imported.

The rise has been blamed on high global demand, maintenance issues and lower solar and wind energy output.

Mr Sharma said: “A significant part of our gas supply comes domestically. The imported gas primarily comes from countries like Norway so we are securing that.”

He said the situation showed that the UK needed to do “even more in terms of renewables.”

“That’s how we ensure you have a clean energy mix and you have security of supply in our country,” he said.

Fears are growing that soaring gas prices could spark food shortages after two fertiliser plants were forced to close, shutting down Britain’s commercial production of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fertiliser, is used in the production and transport of a wide range of products including meat, bread, beer and fizzy drinks.

The meat industry would be able to carry on for less than two weeks before carbon dioxide stocks are depleted, the Times reports.

The gas is used to stun animals before slaughter and extending the shelf-life of products.

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, says the lack of carbon dioxide, combined with a shortage of workers, will affect the supply of Turkeys for Christmas.

Mr Boparan said: “There are less than 100 days left until Christmas and Bernard Matthews and my other poultry businesses are working harder than ever before to try and recruit people to maintain food supplies.

“Nothing has fundamentally changed since I spoke about this issue in July. In fact, I take no pleasure in pointing out that the gaps on the shelves I warned about then are getting bigger by the day.

“The supply of Bernard Matthews turkeys this Christmas was already compromised as I need to find 1,000 extra workers to process supplies. Now with no CO2 supply, Christmas will be cancelled.

“The CO2 issue is a massive body blow and puts us at breaking point, it really does – that’s poultry, beef, pork, as well as the wider food industry.

“Without CO2, the bottom line is there is less throughput and with our sector already compromised with lack of labour, this potentially tips us over the edge.”

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