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Cold snap could push business electricity prices up again

The severe cold snap across Europe, which has pushed gas prices to their highest level for five years, is proof that business electricity prices  will remain volatile, according to the Energy Advice Line.

Julian Morgan, managing director of the UK’s leading business electricity price comparison  and switching service (Energy Advice Line), said although energy suppliers had recently cut their prices, firms would be wise to search for good deals now if their fixed-term contracts were ending.

Mr Morgan said there were fears that the unexpectedly harsh European cold snap would push gas and business electricity prices back up sooner than expected. Wholesale UK gas prices have jumped by 50% since the beginning of the cold snap to reach their highest level since 2006.

“To remain in control of their energy bills and to keep them as low as possible, businesses need to be vigilant and should not expect the lower business electricity  prices announced by the Big Six earlier this year to last,” Mr Morgan said.

“If your fixed-term contract is coming up for renewal it is now more important than ever to compare the market and investigate the best business electricity rates available. It may be wise for firms to lock in good deals now.

“Businesses can do this up to 120 days before the end of their fixed-term contracts.”

With more people forced to use more gas to heat their homes during the bitterly cold weather, and with Europe’s major gas supply from Russia not being as high as usual, some countries such as Italy, Greece and Australia have suffered fuel shortages.

Energy analysts say there is still sufficient gas in the UK, but if higher prices continued these could feed through to domestic and business electricity users eventually.

“If wholesale prices rise faster than expected, it’s obvious retail prices will rise faster than expected too,” he said. “But it’s not easy to predict whether prices are back up for long,” according to Stephen Fitzpatrick, chief executive of Ovo Energy.

Tom Pering, an analyst at energy consultancy Inenco, said gas prices had spiked even higher in the current cold snap because energy traders were worried that British supplies were dependent on a major Norwegian pipeline.

Any disruption to this supply could have serious consequences at a time when the weather is bad across Europe.

“It’s difficult to say whether the high prices will continue as the weather is uncertain,” he said. “We think there is a risk premium being built in to the price, even though something hasn’t happened. We need strong flows from Norway. If that was to have a disruption, things would be more difficult.”

Energy regulator Ofgem has urged all businesses to shop around for the best available business gas  and business electricity prices.

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