Firms 'missing benefits' of energy price falls

25-09-2006

Many British firms are unlikely to benefit from the recent falls in oil, gas and electricity prices as they remain bound by long-term energy contracts, a new study says.

The Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF) annual energy survey found many firms signed long-term electricity and gas wholesale contracts with utility firms in the wake of rocketing energy prices and as such would not feel the immediate impact of the downward trend in prices.

Oil prices hit $78 a barrel last month, and have since hovered at about $60 a barrel.

Martin Temple, EEF's director general, said: "Despite recent falls, the price of energy remains higher than it was this time last year and there is little prospect of industry seeing any benefit for the foreseeable future."

The EEF said firms were unlikely to see lower energy costs until late next year.

In the meantime, about a third of firms tried to cut fuel bills by switching supplier, EEF said.

Of the 232 firms surveyed, 92 per cent said they had been hit by energy price increases, with gas and electricity prices up 55 per cent and 42 per cent on average respectively.

Going forward, 81 per cent of firms forecasted further price increases over the next 12 months.

Wholesale gas prices are predicted to fall as new supply pipelines from Norway and the Netherlands come on stream later this year, but EEF said firms were unlikely to benefit from those price falls until next year.


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