Archive for Energy

British Gas price hike will ‘put a squeeze on household finances as winter approaches’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (12th October 2012) criticised energy firm, British Gas, for imposing a £80 price hike on millions of households – just as winter is about to begin.

British Gas, who are the UK’s largest energy supplier, announced an average 6% gas and electricity rise, effective from 16 November.  This is despite their interim financial report showing profits on UK residential customers being up by 23%, compared to the same period last year.

Tom said:

“Many of my constituents will be perplexed as to why energy prices are going up yet again when household incomes are being squeezed, yet British Gas are raking in the profits. It is simply not justifiable for energy firms to force this rise on customers when only a few large companies have control over the energy markets and are able to raise or lower prices in tandem and at a whim.

“The latest news from today is that other energy suppliers are likely to follow suit and increase their prices too. The dominance of these firms needs to be broken and better regulation needs to be in place to simplify tariffs and to ensure families are able to get the best deals possible. Unfortunately, the Government’s Energy Bill falls well short of reforming the energy market.

“My constituents won’t be able to cope with spiralling energy bills – and the Government seems unwilling to deal with the issue. The best alternative at the moment would be for my constituents to think about switching companies to ensure they have the best deal possible.”

Government needs to get a grip on unsustainable energy prices – Tom Blenkinsop MP

A report by uSwitch, the independent price comparison and switching service, has stated that energy bills are set to become ‘unaffordable’ in less than three years time.

The research found that once the average household energy bill reaches £1,500 energy will no longer be affordable. At this point, 59% of people will have to go without adequate heating, while a third of people will be forced to switch off their heating entirely.

The average household bill is already £1,252 a year, more than double what it was 8 years ago. If the current pricing trends continue, then the crucial tipping point of £1,500 will be exceeded by 2015 and by 2018 the average annual energy bill could be £2,766.

Tom said:
“The Government has to get a hold on rising energy bills. Families and pensioners are already suffering because of Tory cuts and tax rises. The soaring energy bills are making what are already difficult financial times almost unendurable.

“Energy now accounts for such a large chunk of household income that more people than ever are having to ration their energy use. But this is not a sustainable solution and is potentially very harmful. Hypothermia-related deaths have almost doubled over the last five years, a fact that can be directly attributed to escalating energy costs.

“Asking people to ‘shop around’ for a better deal is not a suitable answer to the energy bill crisis. The Government needs to get its act together and support Labour’s plans to overhaul the energy market and deliver fair prices for everybody.”

New Carbon capture plan can benefit Teesside “but Government must make a greater cash commitment”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop said that today’s announcement (3rd April 2012) by the government of a re-opening of a competition to kick start a new generation of ‘Coal Carbon Capture’ Power Stations could be an opportunity for Teesside, but the government ‘must up its own cash offer” if this was to be realistic.

The competition – with a government cash offer of £1 billion across the UK – the same amount as before is for a new generation of “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) power stations which will prevent CO2 escaping into the atmosphere. Its attraction is that existing fossil fuels including coal and gas can be burned without releasing the usual quantities of CO2, the key greenhouse gas. Instead of being vented into the air, the gas would be trapped and then piped into long-term storage in old oil fields under the North Sea.

Tom said:
“There was, and still is, one potential bidder for this on Teesside in the shape of Progressive Energy, a firm that is looking to build a power station running on coal and which would utilise the existing pipe corridors linking Teesside to North Sea oil and gas fields. This would help reduce capital running costs for the local chemical industry who use these pipelines and would help to maximise the exploitation and costs of these oil and gas fields as well. A successful plant on Teesside would provide both direct operating and construction jobs and also possibly open up a market in similar plants for export abroad.”

“But there is one big problem. When this completion was open two years ago, there was interest from a number of areas, including ours. But all the potential bidders dropped out as the cash on offer was simply too small to defray or assist start up costs in any realistic fashion. CCS is potentially a winning combination for the UK and for areas like ours – but the Government have to think again about the cash they are putting on the table. It is ludicrous, in the old saying, to ‘spoil the ship for a halfpenny worth of tar’, but this, I am afraid, is what the government are doing.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP “Disappointed” as Tees Industry Loses out on the Redcar Offshore Windfarm

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today expressed “disappointment” over news that Teesside-based company TAG Energy Solutions has lost out to a Belgian company on a contract to supply parts to the wind farm being constructed off the Redcar coast.

Tom said: “The demand for sustainable energy sources should have been a fantastic opportunity for business and jobs in Teesside, so this news is very disappointing.

I would have hoped that since the windfarm is being built off Redcar, that EDF Energy Renewables would have given strong consideration to using local industry for parts such as the monopiles.

The Government has failed to take the necessary action to ensure that those building windfarms in Britain and in British waters use British suppliers. At the moment, they are simply not providing the economic benefit that they should be.

I will be writing to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to ask him to look at the way in which procurement decisions are made. I will discuss this matter with my colleagues in the Shadow Energy team.”

Government needs to crack down on supermarket fuel profiteering

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today hit out at news that the big supermarket chains are increasing petrol and diesel prices at the pump as a response to refinery closures and a strike by a group of tanker drivers – including local drivers at distribution company Wincanton based at Stockton-on-Tees.

Tom said “According to what I have been told by both the RAC and the AA, the big supermarket chains have put up to 1p a litre on the price of diesel and unleaded petrol and that, on average across the UK, diesel has risen to 142.32p (from 142.21p) per litre and is now within a fraction of a new record. Petrol has risen to 134.03p per litre (from 133.89p).

This is sheer profiteering and is based on scare stories that there may be a fuel shortage – scare stories that are driving people to fill up their tanks.

The reality is that Petroplus is in administration, and the administrators are working flat out to find a new buyer to resume production. In terms of the Wincanton drivers dispute, the onus is clearly on the company to withdraw their plans to cut wages by up to 20%. According to my research this firm saw its profits soaring by £0.5 billion last year – a 37% increase on 2009, and that directors pay has increased by £500,000 – 41.7%. Given this, it is little wonder that the strike ballot was won by a margin of 83%. Wincanton should withdraw the pay cut threat and instead sit down with their drivers and their union to settle the dispute.

All of this just shows how the ordinary public – who need their cars to get from A to B – are being ripped off by big business.”

More Teesside families left in fuel poverty as cold snap hits North East

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (8th December) revealed that 45,000 people in South Teesside were now seen as having been officially suffering from ‘fuel poverty’ on the government’s own figures – figures he described as ‘shameful’.

The figures came in reply to a question Tom put to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, and in which a Government minister admitted that in 2009 – the last year in which figures were available – over 45,000 people in Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar and Cleveland were living in a situation where they were suffering from fuel poverty.

Tom said “In the UK, fuel poverty is officially defined as living in a situation where, to heat a home to an adequate standard of warmth, a household has to spend more than 10% of its income on gas or electricity.”

“These figures are old ones, but they are still shocking. It is clear that at this time, the actual figure must be now much greater, and it is an indictment of government that they are still running on old figures.”

“Poorer people on Teesside have now been hit by a ‘perfect storm’ which makes fuel poverty more likely – low pay, more unemployment, cuts in welfare benefit and soaring energy costs passed on by the big energy utilities.”

“Put simply, this means that thousands of Teesside families are now having too choose between Christmas shopping or putting cash by to meet gas and electricity bills'”

“This shocking situation – revealed in a week when the first snows of winter have fallen – has been made worse by the coalition government’s decision to peg back the winter fuel supplement brought in by Labour, by £50. We are living at a time when the fat cats can enjoy the coming holidays whilst the poor shiver.”

Cameron’s Talks with Energy Producers Will Bear No Results Unless Government unlocks Investment Cash to Allow Teesside Project To Go Forward

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said that last week’s summit between Prime Minister David Cameron and the UK’s leading energy companies ‘will go nowhere’ unless the government itself is prepared to underwrite investment in new energy plants – including a new 850 megawatt ‘clean coal’ power station on Teesside.

Tom said “David Cameron and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, met with the UK’s ‘big six’ energy giants earlier this week to persuade them to jointly peg consumer prices and to also invest in new energy plants to overcome the coming energy gap now looming.”

“My own view is that this will be mere window dressing if the Government itself is not prepared to get its hands dirty by itself acting as a seed-priming agency to get this new energy capacity off the ground.”

“The energy sector say, rightly in my opinion, that they need a level playing field for long term capital investment, which has to mean state involvement.”

“Here on Teesside, we have one project which could go ahead with ease if that government were prepared to give a green light. I refer to the project being pushed by Progressive Energy. This would be a major new ultra low emission power station fuelled by coal, but which, crucially, would capture carbine greenhouse gases and pump them through a 500 km pipeline to the North Sea oil fields for storage. This project would be a win-win for both Teesside’s chemical industry as it could also take their excess CO2, and for the North Sea oil industry as the CO2 would act to boost oil production under increased underground pressure.”

“The government has in the past promised to underwrite such new power stations, as they were seen as developing engineering technologies to be a valuable future export market for the chemical engineering sector – and this too, would benefit Teesside. But now the government are dragging their feet on this, with vague talk of ‘cash after completion’ which would totally defeat such a project. If David Cameron is sincere in wanting to make progress, he should sign off this Teesside project. If he doesn’t then he merely hits both Teesside and the UK’s energy future.”