Sunday 19 March 2017 7:49 pm

Theresa May ready to accelerate plans for energy market intervention

Prime Minister Theresa May could accelerate energy market reform, bringing forward plans within weeks after hinting at an intervention on Friday.

A green paper on energy pricing had been expected next month, but now speculation is rife that it could emerge even sooner as Downing Street seeks to capitalise on growing momentum.

Former Tory minister John Penrose last week led a debate in the House of Commons on the topic, drawing a positive response from energy minister Jesse Norman.

And Friday saw May stress that ministers would set out reforms “very soon”.

“Energy is not a luxury, it is a necessity of life. But it is clear to me – and to anyone who looks at it – that the market is not working as it should,” May said.

“Relying on switching alone to keep prices down is clearly not working,” she added.

Read More: Ofgem has set a price cap on energy meters – here's how much you'll save

It came after Norman told MPs: “We believe that current practice, as it stands, is not acceptable and we will set out proposals to address these issues shortly.”

Downing Street is understood to have looked at measures including Penrose’s plan for a relative price cap, limiting potential rises for customers.

Institute of Directors infrastructure policy adviser Dan Lewis told City A.M. the situation may require broader thinking to include issues like decarbonisation.

“This is just tinkering,” he said. “We need to have a realistic conversation about energy policy and the scale of what is required here.”

Read More: Three challenger energy firms have come out in favour of a new price cap

But industry lobby group EnergyUK last week pushed back against suggestions of an intervention.

Chief executive Lawrence Slade said: "Only this week the committee on climate change report said energy bills have not materially increased since 2008 through households becoming more energy efficient. This will become more important as we invest in order to decarbonise our economy and meet our climate change commitments.

"Yes there is more to be done, but further intervention now could risk undermining the positive changes happening in the energy market and kill off competition, which is driving innovation and benefits for consumers."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to comment.