Rishi Sunak scraps energy supply taskforce set up by Liz Truss

Government shelves plan to secure long-term contracts because ‘locking in while gas prices are this high doesn’t make sense’

An energy security taskforce launched by Liz Truss has been scrapped by her successor, Rishi Sunak, after three months.

The taskforce, announced by Truss towards the beginning of her brief tenure as prime minister, was created as part of a package of measures announced in September to reform the “broken” market.

Led by Madelaine McTernan, who had previously been in charge of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, the team aimed to agree long-term contracts with domestic and international suppliers to improve Britain’s energy security and cut charges.

However, although Truss said the energy supply taskforce had already started negotiations in September, a government source has confirmed it was subsequently scrapped by Sunak.

They said: “Winding down the taskforce is the right decision. While it was sensible in September for the previous administration to explore these contracts, locking in long-term contracts while gas prices are this high just doesn’t make sense.”

Saying the taskforce was “one option on the table”, the source pointed to a “whole range of other actions” being taken in service of its aims, including financial backing for the new Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk.

Truss said at the time that the consequences of Russia’s assault on Ukraine had exposed the “flaws” in the UK’s approach to energy security, and declared her intent to end “short-term thinking” on the issue “once and for all”.

Other measures, announced as part of the energy bailout in September, included the “energy price guarantee”, which froze bills for an average household at £2,500 a year from 1 October.

This will continue to protect bill-payers until the end of March 2024, despite the regulator Ofgem confirming last month that the annual price cap is due to rise to £4,279 in January 2023.

A six-month scheme offering “equivalent support” for businesses and other non-domestic energy users was also announced at the time, with continuing assistance for “vulnerable industries” provided after the end of that period.

A government spokesperson said: “The energy supply taskforce was set up in September 2022 as part of efforts to boost domestic energy security.

“While the government is continuing these efforts and remains completely committed to strengthening our energy resilience, we have concluded that direct purchases of gas are not the best intervention in the market.”

The Truss administration had said the taskforce and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) would also negotiate with renewable energy producers in an effort to cut their prices.


Cash Boyle

The GuardianTramp

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