Energy firms to be forced to keep large gas reserves under new proposals

Amendment to Energy Bill suggested amid growing concerns over energy shortages

Large energy firms could be forced to hold a minimum level of gas in storage, amid growing concerns about shortages linked to the prolonged period of cold weather.

Just days after analysts raised the prospect of gas rationing, ministers are considering inserting a “security of supply” amendment to the Energy Bill. The government is understood to be considering a proposal by Ofgem, the regulator, that would oblige suppliers to keep stocks above a specified level to ensure recent supply scares are not repeated.

“The Government is considering whether intervention in the market in needed to encourage additional gas storage build,” said a spokesman for the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

Because of its historic reliance on the North Sea’s now diminished gas supply, the UK has a much lower level of storage capacity than many other countries.  Britain has the ability to store just 20 days supply of gas, compared to 103 days in France, 92 days in Germany and 70 days in Italy.

With North Sea reserves now producing less than 40 per cent of UK demand, the country is buying far more of its gas on the volatile “spot” market.  This means Britain is paying far more for its gas by buying at the last minute, than if it had bought the gas earlier at a lower price and stored it in a tank until it was needed.

Andrew Hammond, of the energy consultancy Utilyx, said the UK needed to “at least” double its gas storage capacity – implying at least another 20 days of reserves.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, the energy consultant, said: “We need more storage to stabilise the price we pay for gas and we must get on with this. We’re going to need a range of measures... including tax breaks and streamlining of planning permission.”

The UK’s biggest storage capacity by far, the disused Rough North Sea field off the Yorkshire coast, can hold about 15 days of supply. Analysts said a storage facility of this size would cost about £2bn, implying a cost of about £2.6bn for an extra 20 days supply, the minimum experts believe is needed.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence