Sunday 19 September 2021 9:53 am

Alok Sharma says there is 'no immediate concern' about winter energy shortages

Alok Sharma has insisted there are “no immediate concerns” about potential energy shortages this winter amid warnings of a second winter of discontent.

The Cop26 president, who sits in cabinet, said today that “we don’t see any risks going into winter”.

Business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is set to hold crunch discussions with the energy sector today and tomorrow, after the closure of two British energy suppliers.

Utility Point and People’s Energy ceased trading this week, the sixth and seventh energy companies to do so this year, after rising prices made the companies unviable.

Energy prices have experienced a record spike and warnings abound that potential shortages could lead to a tough winter for households across the country.

Bournemouth-based Utility Point provided power to 220,000 customers, while London’s People’s Energy had 350,000 customers.

Sharma told Sky News this morning that “people reading what’s in the press will be concerned about the supply of energy”, but that those fears are misplaced.

“The business secretary [Kwasi Kwarteng] has been having detailed discussions with the sector this weekend, he will continue those today and there will be a roundtable tomorrow,” he said.

“The clear message coming out of this that there is no immediate concern in terms of supply, we don’t see any risks going into winter. When it comes to prices, we of course have an energy price cap, there are also mechanisms like the warm home discount available to people as well.

“People should be confident that the supplies will be there and wee will be protecting them in terms of price rises. We won’t be complacent about this and that is why the business secretary is having very detailed discussions with the sector.”

Rising energy prices, and potential energy shortages, may have the effect of crippling food production.

Businesses said the shutdowns were the last thing they needed, requiring carbon dioxide to stun animals, preserve packaged meat and produce fizzy drinks. 

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Producers Association, yesterday said: “We’ve had zero warning of the planned closure of the fertiliser plants and, as a result, it’s plunged the industry into chaos. 

“The British food supply chain is at the mercy of a small number of major fertiliser producers (four or five companies) spread across northern Europe. We rely on a by-product from their production process to keep Britain’s food chain moving.”