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UK Faces Anti-Green Backlash As Energy Prices Rise

The British government faces a public backlash against its green energy agenda as consumers are unwilling to spend more on power and gas bills to pay for investment in low-carbon forms of energy, a parliamentary committee warned on Monday.

“Our evidence points to the danger of a backlash against the government’s green agenda if it means rising bills for consumers,” the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee said in a report.

It urged the government and the energy industry to better engage with the public to explain underlying factors that create higher energy prices.

Three of Britain’s six major energy suppliers have announced double-digit increases in power and gas tariffs from this summer, raising fears about consumer price inflation.

An opinion poll published by utility Centrica last month showed only one quarter of respondents thought the government should stick to its plans for a greener economy if it means higher energy price.

“I don’t think there is enough understanding of the charges that are there and which are coming through, and that is why we want much greater clarity on people’s bills,” Energy Minister Charles Hendry told the committee in a hearing last month.

The group of parliamentarians also said energy providers should not wait for government or regulator action to make energy tariffs more simple.

UK consumers currently have to choose from 400 different tariffs, a complex system which the minister said also got him confused.

“I went on line to compare my tariffs and I was so confused by the options that I decided to stick where I was, and I think I am probably not untypical in that respect,” he said at the hearing.

Britain’s energy regulator Ofgem proposed last month to impose mandatory auctions on the UK’s large power producers to give access to alternative suppliers.

The proposal is part of a wider regulatory review of Britain’s energy retail market, details of which are expected later this year.

Reuters, 25 July 2011