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PAC: Ofgem failures “come at considerable cost to energy billpayers”

13 November 2022

In a report today the Public Accounts Committee calls on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Ofgem to say how they will make “the energy retail market work in the best interests of customers during the transition to net zero” after finding that failures at the energy regulator have come “at a considerable cost to billpayers”.

Since July 2021, 29 energy suppliers have failed, affecting around 4 million households. Customers have been left to pay the £2.7 billion cost of supplier failures. This means an extra £94 per household, a cost that will very likely increase. The Committee found that this was due to “Ofgem’s failure to effectively regulate the energy supplier market”.  Ofgem “did not strike the right balance between promoting competition in the energy suppliers market and ensuring energy suppliers were financially resilient”.  Despite problems with the financial resilience of energy retailers emerging in 2018 Ofgem did not tighten requirements for new suppliers until 2019, and for existing suppliers until 2021. By this point wholesale gas and electricity prices increased to unprecedented levels. 

The price cap “is providing only very limited protection to households from increases in the wholesale price of energy”, and Ofgem expects prices could “get significantly worse through 2023”. The Committee says BEIS and Ofgem should “review the costs and benefits of the price cap from a consumer’s perspective” to inform decisions about the future of energy price controls. The position of vulnerable customers, who already pay higher energy prices, is “unacceptable”.  

 Chair's comments

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“It is true that global factors caused the unprecedented gas and electricity prices that have caused so many energy supplier failures over the last year, at such terrible cost to households. But the fact remains that we have regulators to set the framework to shore us up for the bad times.  

Problems in the energy supply market were apparent in 2018 - years before the unprecedented spike in prices that sparked the current crisis, and Ofgem was too slow to act. Households will pay dear, with the cost of bailouts added to record and rising bills. The PAC wants to see a plan, within six months, for how Government and Ofgem will put customers’ interests at the heart of a reformed energy market, driving the transition to Net Zero.”

Further information

Image: Tyler-allicock