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Watchdog urges Ofgem to protect customers in pursuit of decarbonisation

Experts have said that it is vital that the plan takes into account vulnerable people.

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Ofgem has vowed to increase offshore wind generation (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Ofgem has vowed to increase offshore wind generation (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Ofgem has vowed to increase offshore wind generation (Owen Humphreys/PA)

A consumer watchdog has urged Ofgem to bring people along on the road to net zero as the regulator presented its plan to help decarbonise the UK.

Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Gillian Guy said that Ofgem has put forward a road map that recognises the need to protect vulnerable customers.

“People need to understand why these changes are needed, they will need help and support to make those changes and strong consumer protections if things go wrong,” she said.

Her comments come as the new boss of Ofgem, Jonathan Brearley, on Monday presented the regulator’s plan to quadruple offshore wind generation and put 10 million electric vehicles on Britain’s roads within a decade.

We must go further, particularly on heat and transport.Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem chief executive

It aims to help Britain reach the Government’s target of being carbon neutral by the middle of the century.

This will require a boom in renewable and low-carbon electricity. The regulator said this would involve additional costs in the short term, but that delaying will lead to an even higher price in the future as the challenge of cutting emissions increases.

“Britain has come a long way. It has decarbonised faster than any other major economy, but we must go further, particularly on heat and transport. We are taking an approach that recognises that our role protecting consumers includes achieving net zero,” Mr Brearley said.

He promised to introduce price controls on the energy networks to clear the path and make the energy system more flexible. Mr Brearley called on the industry to “rise to the challenge”.

One such challenge is that wind farms only produce electricity when it is windy, while solar farms need sun. Companies are therefore finding innovative new ways of regulating demand so that customers use energy when it is being produced.

Late last year National Grid paid customers to use electricity during a few nights, mostly to charge their cars, while offshore wind farms were churning out large amounts of energy.

“It’s critical that the regulator, government and industry are aligned to decarbonise the energy sector in the journey to net zero at the lowest cost to consumers, and we both welcome and share Ofgem’s commitment to achieving this,” said Nicola Shaw, the UK executive director of National Grid.

The plan has nine actions. They include plans to publish a strategy for electric vehicles which sets out how the grid can meet the increased demand that the cars will bring.

PA