Four things companies and consumers want for energy, fuel duty and North Sea oil from the Autumn Statement

 
Francesca Washtell
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Energy UK has said it wants a clearer commitment to the UK's long-term vision for the energy sector (Source: Getty)

Energy consumers and industry groups no doubt have their fingers crossed for a slew of price cuts, duty freezes and investment boosts when chancellor Philip Hammond delivers his Autumn Statement on Wednesday.

Here are some of the top energy-related wants - and some of the indicated energy policies - to look out for later this week.

Fuel duty freeze

In a motorist-friendly move, Hammond is widely expected to scrap a planned 2p-per-litre rise in fuel duty.

George Osborne froze fuel duty for the sixth year in a row to save the average driver £75 per year in March, and continuing the freeze will benefit those in the UK's "squeezed middle". It was due to rise in line with inflation from April next year, which could soar by three per cent.

Read more: AA plea to Osborne: Don't hike motorists' bills

RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said:

Motorists will welcome reports that the chancellor will freeze fuel duty beyond April 2017, especially since 61 per cent of motorists polled by the RAC said they expected fuel prices to rise significantly over the next six months. Compared to the January 2016, motorists are now paying on average £6.60 more to fill up an average 55-litre tank. Keeping fuel costs down could help the chancellor keep both inflation down and the economy moving, and keep motorists on-side.

Earlier this month, more than 50 Tory MPs banded together to demand fuel duty be cut and campaigners have argued that even if the duty increased in line with the RPI next April, it would equate to an £40,000 increase in costs for an average haulage business.

Motorists will also be appeased by plans to invest £1.3bn on road upgrades and infrastructure improvements, in an Autumn Statement he's said will have infrastructure "at its heart".

Better energy prices for consumers and industries

Consumers will no doubt be hoping that the UK's Big Six energy companies will be forced to make it easier for customers to get better deals.

Although no announcements have officially been made yet, it has been widely reported that the Big Six firms will be told to offer fewer and simpler tariffs, as well as making it easier to switch between suppliers.

Britain's Big Six energy providers

British Gas
EDF Energy
E.ON UK
Npower
ScottishPower
SSE

Martin Lewis, of the website MoneySavingExpert, bashed such a move on Facebook, saying: "The switching simplicity element is good. Yet while fewer tariffs on the surface, sounds sensible, it doesn't work.

Read more: A third of working families feeling the pinch from energy bills

"If you want people to switch, they need to be incentivised to do so with a big saving. That needs lots of tariffs so there are big differentials between the cheapest and the costliest."

Last week, SSE became the first of the six major energy suppliers to announce a price freeze until next year.

Tackling energy prices in the Autumn Statement has also been encouraged by sectors such as the UK's steel industry, which is hampered by high power rates that can be more than 40 per cent higher than for producers in other European countries.

Long-term vision for the UK's energy system

Industry body Energy UK has also called for Hammond to make it clear what the UK's long-term vision is for the energy sector, including commitments to low-carbon infrastructure and electricity market reform.

"Long term infrastructure investment requires stability," Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, has said.

Read more: Greg Clark warns rip off energy companies to treat their customers fairly

"Currently, industry believes the right framework is in place for energy companies to plan for major infrastructure investments in the UK energy system. Electricity Market Reform is providing the necessary mechanisms required to progress towards a secure, low carbon future."

More relief for North Sea oil and gas

The embattled North Sea oil and gas sector will be hoping for more tax relief from the Treasury to help its companies weather the ongoing downturn in the sector.

Oil producers, the Scottish National Party, Scottish government and Scottish Labour have called for another round of government subsidies in the Autumn Statement, though it's unclear at this stage exactly what form heightened relief would take.

In March, Osborne halved the supplementary charge on oil and gas companies (from 20 per cent to 10 per cent) and "effectively abolished" the petroleum revenue tax, which had taxed profits for older oil and gas fields.

Read more: Second Scottish independence referendum could slash North Sea oil output

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, said earlier this month:

I have asked Mr Hammond to get behind the UK’s oil and gas industry by providing certainty in our fiscal regime, recommitting to the Treasury’s ‘Driving Investment’ strategy for the sector and, as part of the UK’s new industrial strategy, recognising our supply chain as a key strength in the economy, with world leading capability – equally valuable as aerospace or the automotive sectors, for example.

The UK oil and gas industry is much more globally competitive than it was two years ago. The cost of doing business in the North Sea has come down significantly and production has increased for the first time in 15 years thanks to the industry’s efforts to make its operations more efficient.

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