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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2006, 13:27 GMT
New supply 'to ease UK gas bills'
Norwegian gas producing platform
Increased supplies from Norway should help
New gas supplies should ease the burden of rising energy prices, the UK's Trade and Industry Secretary has said.

New liquid gas storage facilities and a new pipeline from Norway will help boost UK fuel supplies, Alan Johnson told ITV1's Dimbleby programme.

The claims came a day ahead of the launch of a consultation document over the future of UK energy supplies.

Supplies have taken on a renewed sense of urgency after recent gas price rises and increasing reliance on foreign gas.

Next year we have a whole new range of supply coming in
Alan Johnson, trade secretary

"The main problem this winter and next winter is that the supplies of gas from the North Sea ... have gone down much quicker than anyone expected," Mr Johnson said.

"The market hasn't reacted to that significantly and so there was a problem this year with shortage of supply which then was reflected in higher prices," he added.

"Next year we have a whole new range of supply coming in, so the situation eases so that particular tension and that particular pressure on prices we think will be eased considerably over the next year or two."

Energy debate

Gas is important not just for domestic heating, but also for manufacturing and electricity supplies.

The government is currently reviewing the UK's energy supplies, looking into reducing carbon dioxide emissions, improving power supplies and examining calls for increased nuclear power.

Consultation documents to be unveiled by the government will seek the views of the public, industry and pressure groups on which forms of energy supplies should be promoted in the country.

In recent months manufacturers have been warning that dwindling supplies and higher prices are posing a big problem.

Meanwhile, numerous firms - including Centrica, Scottish Power and Npower - have raised tariffs for domestic users, leading to higher bills. However, green campaign groups have raised concerns about increasing reliance on nuclear energy.

Organisation such as Friends of the Earth have said greater efficiency and promotion of other renewable power sources could tackle UK energy worries.

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