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Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…

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British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms

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The United Kingdom’s gas and electric companies are due for massive reforms in the coming months, according to an announcement by the country’s energy regulator this week.

The “radical reforms,” as labelled by the Guardian, seek to make the cost of energy more affordable for the nation’s residents.

“Change is coming whether the industry likes it or not,” Ofgem CEO Dermot Nolan told energy firms in a passionate speech.  “To those who say they feel can’t do this in a world of more price regulation, I would say think again. These kinds of reforms are overdue. I don’t think the regulator or parliament will take no for an answer. So you might as well as embrace it, because change is coming.”

Consumers will benefit from price caps and a new ability to get power from more than one supplier. New utility companies will also be able to establish themselves in the U.K.’s traditionally closed energy markets.

“One way to proceed is protecting consumers through a process of collective switching,” Nolan said, describing a proposal that would shift thousands of people at a time off of old tariff policies. “Rather than customers having to make an active choice as with conventional collective switches, the switch could be made on their behalf without them having to do anything. It’s a bit like allowing better deals to find customers, rather than customers having to find the better deals themselves.”

Related: Oil Markets Fear Iraqi Escalation

So far, Ofgem does not have the legislative support to make any of these new proposals a reality.

Britain’s gas and electricity companies have avoided showing their disapproval for the new moves in a variety of ways. E.ON CEO Michael Lewis said that answering hypothetical questions regarding the future of the U.K.’s energy sector would be ill-advised. Centrica, the holding company for British Gas, refused to say whether it would challenge such new regulations if they were to come into effect.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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